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6 U.S. Corporate Giants Leading the Move to Renewable Energy

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According to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) year-in-review, the adoption of solar and other clean energy sources spiked dramatically in 2016.  The SEIA also recently announced that the solar energy industry grew by a head-turning 97% last year.

Much of that growth was in the residential sector, however, as the cost of clean energies becomes competitive with fossil fuels big business is embracing clean energy sources

Here are 6 corporate leaders in America that made the largest investments in solar energy last year:


1.  Intel:  Leading the Charge

Intel has invested more in green power than any other U.S. corporation for eight consecutive years, one of the reasons it tops the EPA’s Green Power Partnership National Top 100 list. 

In 2015, 100% of the tech giant’s U.S.-used electricity came from clean energies, including wind, solar, geothermal, low-impact hydro and biomass sources.  Last year, Intel installed the largest wind turbine network in the country at its headquarters in Santa Clara, California.

Intel’s climate change policy position (Global Climate Change Policy Statement) is sure to get high marks from business leaders and environmentalists alike:

“The main questions today concern what steps can be taken to mitigate the warming trend and help communities and regions adapt to the present-day and anticipated impacts of the warming that already is occurring. Intel Corporation believes that global climate change is a serious environmental, economic, and social challenge that warrants an equally serious response by governments and the private sector.”


2.  Kohl’s:  Turning Retail Green

Consumers might expect forward-leaning thought leaders in Silicon Valley to push clean energy, but not so much the retail sector.

Kohl’s is proving them wrong.

The retail giant has claimed the top spot among retailers on Green Power Partnership’s Top 30 Retail ranking every year since 2009—and they’ve weaved an emphasis on good corporate citizenship into their branding messaging.

According to Ken Bonning, Kohl’s Senior Executive Vice President, the company’s intention is to be a “corporate sustainability leader,” primarily through its increasing commitment to on-site energy generation and use of solar power.


3.  Walmart:  Ambitious Goals

 For the past 4 years, Walmart has topped in the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) annual list of America’s leading corporate solar installers.  This year, it was edged out (barely) by Target.  Walmart has also been a Green Power Partner of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) every year since 2009 and currently ranks number 9 on its National Top 100 list

Walmart has achieved these distinctions despite the fact that, currently, it’s meeting just 4% of its total electricity needs with solar—but that’s about to change.  The company recently committed to meeting 100% of its power needs with renewable energy by 2020, setting the bar high for other corporate leaders.


4.  Apple:  A Comprehensive Climate Change Initiative

 Apple, like Intel, has adopted a far-reaching (and verifiable) climate change plan, one aspect of which is the identification of its carbon footprint, along with the strategies it intends to deploy to decrease it.  The company’s newly-constructed main campus in Cupertino, California will be powered exclusively by renewable energies, the bulk of which will come from what will be one of the biggest onsite corporate solar installations in the world. 

Apple also signaled earlier this year its plan to join the RE100 initiative, a group of top global businesses which have committed to 100% dependence on renewable electricity.  Apple operations in the U.S., Canada and 21 other countries are already meeting this commitment.  Lisa Jackson, Apple’s Vice President for Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, recently detailed the extent of the company’s commitment to green power:

“Apple is committed to running on 100 percent renewable energy, and we’re happy to stand beside other companies that are working toward the same effort.  We’re excited to share the industry-leading work we've been doing to drive renewable energy into the manufacturing supply chain, and look forward to partnering with RE100 to advocate for clean-energy policies around the world.”


5.  IKEA:  Continually Growing Its Solar Portfolio

 IKEA’s 2017 installation of a 213,000-square-foot solar array atop its recently launched store in Columbus, Ohio is hardly the company’s first substantial investment in solar energy.  In fact, it’s the furniture giant’s 47th major solar project in the U.S. and follows closely on the heels of a similarly ambitious solar installation at its Cincinnati store.

IKEA now boasts solar installations at 90% of its U.S. locations, and recently announced plans to build what will be Illinois’s largest rooftop solar project.  An IKEA spokesperson commented that the company’s continued commitment to investments in solar energy is consistent with its brand, and its mission “to create a better everyday life for the many.”


6.  The National Hockey League:  It's "the Right Thing to Do" 

One doesn’t typically associate climate change with harsher winter weather, but one of the paradoxes of climate change is that warmer temperatures which diminish freezing in lakes increase water evaporation, and that can produce bigger winter storms.  That’s precisely what happened in 2006, the first year in recorded history that Lake Erie didn’t freeze.  Because more water vapor was pumped into the atmosphere, snowfalls in the region that year were more sustained and more intense.

Aware of the vulnerability of communities around the country that support winter sports, the National Hockey League in 2010 launched its NHL Green initiative, an environmental sustainability plan to address the impact of climate change on the game of hockey, a commitment which has grown exponentially every year since.

The NHL was also the first professional sports league in the nation to publish a sustainability report to detail its activities.  Among those activities are the restoration of more than 50 million gallons of fresh water to streams and rivers throughout North America (through its partnership with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation).  That and related initiatives made the NHL one of the EPA’s Green Power Partnership National Top 100 list, where it is currently listed as the 17th-largest user of green power in the country.  NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, described the scope of the League’s commitment:

“We believe that this effort is not only the right thing to do for the environment, but is also a core strategy for the long-term success of our League. We have a vested interest in this cause.  As a business, we rely on freshwater to make our ice, on energy to fuel our operations, and on healthy communities for our athletes, employees and fans to live, work, and play. … As a League, we are uniquely positioned to promote the environmental message.”


The significant investment these leading U.S. companies are making in solar is important, but it’s not the whole story.  As more businesses—not only those with instant name recognition, but also the thousands of small, local businesses which are the principal drivers of the American economy—recognize that sustainability and profitability are not at odds, the growth in renewables continues to accelerate.

Last year, for example, more than 40% of all new power generation projects were solar and, for the first time since 2011, the growth of commercial solar installations outpaced that of residential ones.  By taking a leadership role, companies like Intel, Walmart, Kohl’s, Apple, IKEA and the National Hockey League are demonstrating the business and environmental benefits of a shift to clean energy sources, paving the way for others to follow.

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Posted: October 03, 2017