by Craig Volland
A new report from the Wind Energy Federation (WEF) identifies rapidly increasing demand for wind and solar energy purchased directly by large institutional buyers, including Fortune 500 corporations. The planned purchases are so large that the WEF predicts that transmission capacity may be inadequate.
Since 2013, U.S. corporations have signed nearly 9000 megawatts (MW) of long-term wind and solar power contracts (equal to over 16 conventional power plants and enough electricity to power over 7.5 million homes). The Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), representing more than 100 U.S. corporate buyers, set a goal to deploy 60,000 MW of new renewable energy capacity in the U.S. by 2025 —equal to 110 conventional power plants and enough electricity to power nearly 50 million homes.
For example, in 2016, Amazon signed purchase agreements for 650 MW of clean energy bringing its cumulative total of U.S. deals to 1200 MW.
Google signed for 1900 MW in 2016, Microsoft & Walmart signed for 500 MW each that year. Others: Kimberly- Clark 245 MW, and Anheuser Busch InBev 152.5 MW and General Motors 200 MW all in 2017.
The incentives driving these purchases are lower costs, price risk reductions, and corporate environmental initiatives. The report notes that today’s wind costs are one-third what they were in 2009, falling 67 percent, from $140/MWh to a range of $30-60/ MWh in just eight years. The cost of utility-scale solar has declined even more dramatically, falling 86 percent since 2009 to today’s range of $46-53/ MWh. The full report contains a wealth of data on wind and solar resources and current renewable energy capacity, and what will be needed to transmit this power to demand centers.