Walmart has always been about one quality more than anything else, and that quality is actually quantity. The low-cost clothing, food and housewares giant is easily the largest retailer in both the United States and globally, and has been able to command vast economies of scale to both the detriment of its rivals and often its suppliers as well.
So it was natural that Walmart, which never did anything at a modest scale, would also become the largest corporate user of solar, deployed on its vast network of rooftop real estate on big-box superstores and distributions centers across the nation. For the first four years that Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) published annual rankings, Walmart held the top spot among corporations.
Until now. According to the latest version of SEIA’s Solar Means Business report, over the first nine months of 2016, Target narrowly beat out Walmart as the top corporate adopter of solar. The company has reached 147.5 MW of cumulative capacity at 300 installations on its facilities to Walmart’s 145 MW.
This is despite Walmart being much larger in the field of retail giants. According to the National Retail Federation, Target had $73 million in U.S. retail sales in 2014 – roughly a fifth that of WalMart’s $344 million.
Target has aggressively installed solar PV this year, nearly doubling its cumulative capacity by installing 69 MW in the first nine months of 2016 alone, compared to Walmart’s 22 MW.
Incidentally, this burst of activity has also had an impact on the rankings of top C&I installers, and Target’s deal with Greenskies likely pushed the Connecticut-based company to the top ranking for C&I solar installers during Q1 of this year.
Both Walmart and Target still have a lot of room to grow. Target has only installed solar PV on 15% of its facilities, and Walmart a mere 7%. By comparison, IKEA has put solar PV on nearly 90% of its facilities, as the top corporate adopter by this metric.
Target and Walmart are both larger than IKEA in the United States, and IKEA’s cumulative U.S. total is 44 MW.
Overall, SEIA notes that while these companies are leaders, that the field of commercial and industrial (C&I) solar is much larger. The organization estimates that the top 10 corporate adopters which it publishes information on represent only 16% of the capacity of C&I, government, non-profit and other installations which are neither residential nor utility-scale.