Several people told Robert Eckhardt he was crazy when he said he wanted to put solar panels on his company’s corporate headquarters nearly a decade ago. There were concerns about water runoff, high winds and the roof warranty, not to mention the fact that no one knew how to get the project financing done.
“To all of the naysayers who said I couldn’t do it, I just want to say I proved you wrong,” said Eckhardt, who serves as director of architecture and renewable energy at Bed Bath & Beyond, while speaking at the GreenBiz Verge conference this week.
Bed Bath & Beyond installed its first solar project in 2010. Today, the retail company has 17 megawatts of solar and recently committed to expanding its solar portfolio with an additional eight projects using SunPower’s new plug-and-play solar platform.
As prices for solar and wind continue to fall, more and more businesses are expected to turn to renewables to cut operating costs. Many companies are already leveraging their assets to deploy renewable energy projects on-site, as well as acquiring renewables off-site through power-purchase agreements.
In the first half of 2015, major companies signed a slew of renewable energy PPAs: Amazon signed a project for 150 megawatts, Apple signed for 130 megawatts, Kaiser Permanente signed for 153 megawatts, and Dow Chemical signed for 200 megawatts.
Commercial customers represent an enormous opportunity for renewable energy developers. But the corporate market has been limited to a small number of players.
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Many companies, both large and small, continue to struggle with the economics and complexity of procuring clean energy. The Rocky Mountain Institute estimates that for every successful renewable energy deal there are five to 10 failed attempts or significant delays, which impedes overall market growth. Reflecting these challenges, the commercial solar market experienced its first down year in recent history last year.
Several companies leading the charge for clean-energy adoption presented on their lessons learned this week at Verge to help other businesses meet their renewable energy purchasing goals.