New study: Highlights from the Wind Powers American Business report

Many of the businesses across the country that power our everyday lives are increasingly choosing wind energy to power their operations. Once a niche market, corporate customers now routinely represent 40 percent or more of announced wind power contracts in a given year and are some of the most sought-after customers by wind project developers. A new AWEA report released today, Wind Powers American Business, focuses on this growing segment and highlights the top corporate buyers of wind energy in the U.S. The bottom line: Companies powering up with wind is no longer just a trend, it’s the new normal.

Let’s dig into some of the top trends:

Corporate buyers have purchased over 16.8 GW of wind energy through the end of 2019

The number and volume of corporate wind purchases has grown substantially in the past six years, from less than 800 MW at the end of 2013 to over 16,800 MW at the end of 2019, more than a twentyfold increase. This growth has been driven by wind’s economics and newfound customer demand for sustainable products. Wind’s costs have fallen 70 percent since 2009, offering corporate purchasers an affordable, reliable option to power their businesses.

In total, over 140 corporate customers have contracted at least 16,857 MW of U.S. wind energy, both operating and under development, through the end of 2019. This is enough wind capacity to power the equivalent of 5.2 million average American homes. Corporate purchasers are now buying 10 percent of all operating wind capacity as of the end of 2019, totaling 10,281 MW.

2019 was a record year for corporate wind energy purchases

Corporate wind procurement set a record in 2019, with a total of 4,447 MW contracted through power purchase agreements (PPAs) and green tariffs. Twenty-nine companies announced wind energy deals in 2019, including 18 first-time buyers. Walmart was the largest purchaser last year, signing contracts for 541 MW. AT&T was second for the year with 460 MW, followed closely by Facebook with 440 MW. The top new buyers of wind in 2019 were McDonald’s, Sprint Corp, Ford Motor Company, Crown Holdings, and Gap Inc. McDonald’s represents the first fast food company to purchase wind energy in the country.

Google is the largest corporate purchaser of wind energy in the U.S.

Google is the top wind energy customer in the U.S. with 2,397 MW contracted from wind projects across six states. Facebook is the second largest purchaser with 1,459 MW of wind energy contracts, followed by Walmart with 1,333 MW. AT&T and Microsoft round out the top five. Walmart and Google were the first companies to sign large-scale wind purchases, in 2008 and 2010 respectively.

The types of companies buying wind energy are diversifying

Prior to 2015, technology and retail companies accounted for nearly 80 percent of corporate wind energy purchases. Since then, the types of companies buying wind have expanded as costs have fallen and more purchasing options, such as virtual power purchase agreements and green tariffs, have emerged. In particular, purchases by companies in the retail, food and beverage, and telecommunications sectors increased significantly in the past few years. In fact, telecommunications companies first signed up for wind energy in 2017 and now represent the third largest sector.

Technology companies continue to lead the pack however, accounting for 41 percent of all contracted wind capacity through 2019. Retail companies sit in second with 12 percent of wind energy deals, followed by telecommunications and food & beverage with 9 percent each. Google of course leads companies in the technology sector, while Walmart leads the retail sector, AT&T leads telecommunications companies, and General Mills is the top food and beverage purchaser.

Corporate purchasing to date only the tip of the iceberg

While corporate wind purchases have grown significantly in recent years, it is still a relatively new market that only a fraction of US companies have entered, and it represents a large opportunity for future growth.

Consultants anticipate corporate renewable purchasing will grow substantially in the 2020s. The barriers to entry are falling as financial instruments supporting the sector come to market, while falling renewable costs provide an excellent long-term power price hedge. U.S. Fortune 1000 companies consume approximately 1,192 terra-watt hours (TWh) of electricity annually. Currently, only 1 percent of F1000 electricity demand is met via direct procurement of operating wind or solar power, with another 1 percent contracted but not yet built.

Wood Mackenzie estimates Fortune 1000 companies will procure 85 GW of additional renewable power through 2030 based on existing company targets, estimated future targets, and continuing transition from renewable energy credit purchases to direct sourcing. Wind, solar, storage, and hybrid projects are expected to remain the technologies of choice to meet this demand.

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