While more renewables are coming online in the United States, built and installed by large utilities, homeowners and commercial businesses, an often-overlooked market for these purchases is large corporations.
According to a report from the Business Renewables Center, a program at Rocky Mountain Institute, corporate renewable energy procurement set a new single-year record for new capacity in wind and solar in 2018 of 6.43 gigawatts (GW). The report added, “The renewables market in the United States has almost doubled its annual total of corporate clean energy off-site deal volume since its prior highpoint in 2015, while the number of new entrants in the market has also doubled.”
Some of the largest purchasers of renewable energy have been Facebook, AT&T, Walmart, ExonnMobile, Microsoft and Google. In fact, corporate contracts accounted for 22% of all 2018 power-purchase agreements for renewables in the United States in 2018. And, between 2017 and 2018, procurements grew 10%. In addition, Amazon recently announced plans to operate with 100% renewable energy by 2030.
Continued strong growth in corporate renewables procurement is expected for the rest of 2019 and into 2020, fueled by increasingly favorable contract terms, plummeting prices for the technologies, and corporate commitments to sustainability.
So, it should come as no surprise that, last week, Google announced “the biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history.” The purchase, 1.6 GW, will be accomplished through 18 deals spread across three continents. According to Google’s blog, the purchase is the “equivalent to the capacity of a million solar rooftops.” In the United States, Google will purchase 490 MW of solar energy from a project in Texas, 155 MW from a project in North Carolina and 75 MW from a project in South Carolina.
The focus on solar represents a bit of a shift for Google, which, previously, had concentrated most of its renewables procurement on wind projects. “Up to now, most of our renewable energy purchases in the U.S. have been wind-driven, but the declining cost of solar (down more than 90 percent in the past decade) has made harnessing the sun increasingly cost-effect,” said Google in its blog.
To date, Google’s total “renewable energy fleet” now stands at 52 projects, driving more than $7 billion in new construction and thousands of related jobs.