According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, (ICSC,) one of the leading technological trends among retailers is the growing number of solar panel installations on shopping center rooftops and parking garages. What used to be wasted, unusable space for these companies is now not only saving them money on utilities, but in some cases making them money by way of leasing the square footage to other parties.
The Solar Energy Industries Association releases an annual report titled Solar Means Business, breaking down global companies by everything from total solar power capacity from installations, total number of solar projects completed, and even geographical diversity of those installations. Additionally, various industries are analyzed, including of course retailers.
In regards to total solar capacity, Wal-Mart, Kohls, Costco, Apple, and IKEA top the list, (1-5 respectively,) of companies in all collective industries. Other retailers in the top 25 in that category include: Macy’s, Target, Staples, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Walgreens. The retail industry’s overwhelming dominance among the global corporate leaders in solar production is clearly seen when compared to other sectors. For instance, Wal-Mart’s overall installed solar capacity is listed at 105,141 kW, (top ranked within the retail category as well as overall.) The top generators in the other categories include: Apple, (Tech & Telecom category with 40,730 kW,) Johnson & Johnson, (Health & Beauty category with 17,759 kW,) and Volkswagen, (Automotive category with 10,030 kW.)
Many factors contribute to the disparity between the different industry sectors when it comes to solar power generation. A fairly obvious reason for retailers to have a solar advantage would be simply that they have the space. Generally large and empty rooftops from their shopping centers make great locations for on-site solar installations. Additionally, close interactions with their eco-conscious customers adds further incentive for corporate leaders to go green; studies have shown consumers are progressively caring more and more about the energy efficiency of the establishments they frequent.
Furthermore, a new trend among retailers is to lease out their rooftops and parking garages to other companies looking to perform the solar installation on their property, providing an additional influx of funding. Another growing theme is that of the “solar carport”, which is basically a normal parking lot covered by a roof covered in solar panels. This new trend has been particularly popular not only because of its energy savings, but also because of the benefits to the patrons and employees who now have a cool, shaded lot for parking.
Perhaps the most exciting news is that solar will continue to trend upwards in all industries over the next few years. Due to its lowering cost and continued environmental and monetary benefits, coupled by growing government policy and consumer demand, the amount of solar power generated should grow even more in 2015.