Honda (the car company, not the star soccer player) is going solar. Also, thanks to the low cost of solar today and incentives for selling solar power to the grid, the famous Japanese car company is going solar in a big way and will sell surplus electricity to the Japanese grid. (What, you thought Honda was becoming a solar power developer?)
Honda will install 70,000 solar panels (yes, 70 thousand!) at a new test course it is building in the city of Sakura in Tochigi prefecture, Japan.
Here are some more details from a Honda news release:
In 2007 Honda initially announced its plan to build a large-scale test course featuring a high-speed circuit with a 4 km long track, but postponed the plan due to the global economic recession that began in 2008. Reflecting recent changes in the business environment surrounding the automobile industry and in the market needs, Honda modified the purpose and scale of the plan and decided to build the new test course (approximately 25 ha in size) which will be utilized for the development of advanced safety technologies.
In addition, Honda will build a solar power generation system with an annual capacity of 10 MW within the same property in Sakura. After installing approximately 70,000 solar panels on an approximately 33 ha lot, Honda is planning to begin sales of the generated electricity in 2015. Moreover, as a part of its effort to conserve the natural environment, Honda is also planning to build a biotope within the property and will welcome members of the local community to enjoy it.
Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.
Continually declining solar photovoltaic (PV) prices will continue to power an international market surge, with annual installations doubling by 2020 en route to grid parity around the world.
This bright outlook shines through Navigant Research’s most recent “Solar PV Market Forecasts” and estimates solar PV will be cost-competitive with retail electricity prices without subsidies in nearly every electricity market by 2017.
Even though each international energy market presents different conditions for solar PV’s growth, Navigant expects overall solar energy costs to continue falling while overall installations and industry revenue keep climbing.
Low Solar PV Costs Unlock Grid Parity
Solar PV panel oversupply and government incentives have combined to send costs spiraling down to often unsustainable levels in recent years, sparking market consolidations and bankruptcy. According to Navigant, module costs fell from $4 per watt in 2006 to as little as $1 per watt in some markets by 2012, and will continue declining between 3%-8% per year to reach a global average of $1.50-$2.19 per watt by 2020.
This dramatic price decline has also made solar PV appealing to developing nations and an entire new class of homeowners and businesses. Under Navigant’s outlook, new annual installations of solar PV will double from 35.9 gigawatts (GW) new capacity in 2013 to 73.4GW in 2020.
“Lower prices for solar PV modules are opening up new markets for distributed PV, while also helping the technology reach grid parity more quickly in high-cost retail electricity markets,” said Dexter Gauntlett, Navigant analyst.
New Markets, New Revenue, Surprising Trends
And all those new installations will also bring much more revenue, often by new markets. Navigant estimates annual worldwide solar PV revenue will pass $134 billion by 2020, led by growth in the Asia-Pacific region. Of course, China will dominate worldwide growth, and is expected to pass 100GW installed solar PV capacity by 2020.
But if China’s solar surge is predictable, the type of installations is not. Distributed generation, while an exciting prospect for resiliency, is expected to account to less than half of all installations in 2014 and non-distributed systems (greater than 1 megawatt in size) will represent more than half the worldwide market through 2020.
The shift away from non-distributed generation is somewhat surprising, considering major markets like Germany and China are retooling their financial incentives toward on-site installations while solar leasing companies like SolarCity and SunRun offer homeowners the option for rooftop solar with little or no upfront investment and many states tweak policies to free the grid for small-scale solar systems.
But perhaps this shift is best seen in context compared to the total growth of large systems. Navigant previously estimated distributed solar installations would reach $118 billion by 2018 – meaning small solar PV will keep growing, just not as fast.
IKEA partnered with Gehrlicher Solar America Corp for this new project. Construction of the project will commence next spring, and should be completed by next summer. The solar panels will be installed on the roof of the 58,575 square foot store expansion. The solar system, which consists of 1,248 solar panels requires 51,516 square feet of space.
The electricity generation capacity of the project is to be 312 kW, with a projected annual generation of 383,200 kWh, bringing the combined clean energy capacity of that store branch to 1,078,200 kWh annually.
That is the equivalent of removing 761 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. That is comparable to the emissions of 158 cars, or the emissions associated with 105 homes.
Everyone knows solar energy equals environmental benefits, but did you know solar also adds up to a competitive business advantage for some of America’s largest corporations?
US businesses are installing solar panels at breakneck speed to cut energy costs and improve their bottom line, according to the “Solar Means Business 2013” report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Vote Solar.
From Big Box retailers to industrial manufacturers and commercial real estate developers, installing solar energy makes cents for America’s most well-known and efficiently run businesses.
A “Who’s Who” Of America’s Biggest Businesses
Since the inaugural Solar Means Business report in 2012, more than 1,000 megawatts (MW) of new solar photovoltaic (PV) panels have been installed on the rooftops of U.S. businesses, non-profits, and government buildings.
“The list of companies moving to clean, affordable solar energy reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the most successful corporations in America,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA President and CEO.
In fact, the 3,380MW of cumulative commercial solar PV deployment at 32,800 facilities across the US installed through the first two quarters of 2013 represent an increase of more than 40% compared to the same time last year.
While this solar boom for businesses has been wide, it’s also been deep. The 25 companies with the most total solar capacity have more than 445MW of generation installed at 950 different locations – enough to power 73,400 average homes and significantly more than 2012, when the top 25 companies only had 300MW at 730 facilities.
SEIA and Vote Solar contacted every company on the Fortune 100 list and collected data from public databases to compile the report, which only counts on-site PV systems directly supplying power to company facilities, not solar systems selling power to the wholesale electricity market.
Low Solar Energy Costs + Stable Power Prices = Big Business
So what’s driving this shift? As with most business decisions, it comes down to good economics – becoming more profitable through profitable projects with a quick return on investment.
Electricity costs represent the single-largest operating expense for most companies, but solar panel prices have fallen 40% since 2010 and new financing models have reduced up-front investment costs, meaning companies can incorporate solar power below local retail utility rates and save money almost immediately.
Installing solar also empowers companies to hedge against volatile utility prices. Once their rooftop solar system is installed or they finalize a solar power purchase agreement (PPA), a portion of their energy bills are locked in, and the company can focus on other changing costs of doing business.
Walmart Dominates The List
But enough about why business are investing in solar, let’s take a look at which corporations are leading the charge. Unsurprisingly, Walmart dominates every major category in Solar Means Business, with 89.43MW of installed capacity (more than twice their closest competitor) across 215 total solar energy systems (60 more than the runner-up) in 12 states.
The only category Walmart doesn’t dominate is overall percentage of facilities on company land. IKEA took home those honors, with a whopping 89% of solar-powered facilities, good for fifth place in installed capacity with 35MW and sixth place in total installed systems with 39 in 20 states.
A majority of the top companies are Big Box brands, but some notable exceptions stick out, including Apple and Johnson & Johnson ranking fourth and seventh on total capacity, while Walgreens and Safeway ranked second and eight respectively on total installations.
Even though the report is prioritizes on-site systems that supply power directly to company facilities, SEIA also tips its hat to commercial real estate developers building solar but not consuming the generated electricity themselves. Developers like Prologis, with 79MW across 34 installations, often focus on strip malls and retail outlets, helping tenants go green.
Solar-Powered Businesses, Right Around The Corner
Solar power is definitely adding up to bigger profits for US businesses, but the biggest benefit of this fast-expanding market may also be normalizing the technology for consumers – perhaps why 92% of American voters support developing more solar energy.
117 million people in 30 states now live within 20 miles of at least one of the installations analyzed by Solar Means Business, meaning one in three Americans can potentially interact with a green (and profitable) business every day.
“For years, the promise of solar was always ‘just around the corner” added Adam Browning of Vote Solar. “Well solar has turned the corner and found itself on Main Street, USA.”