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Commercial and industrial companies purchase record amount of U.S. wind power

Commercial and industrial companies bought 4,447 megawatts (MW) of U.S. wind capacity last year, setting a new record for annual procurements and bringing total corporate agreements for wind power to 16,857 MW, according to the first Wind Powers American Business report from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

More than 140 companies have purchased U.S. wind energy. Google is the top corporate wind energy purchaser in the U.S., having contracted for 2,397 MW. Facebook is the second largest purchaser with 1,459 MW, followed by Walmart, AT&T, and Microsoft.

Walmart also purchased the most wind energy of any company in 2019, signing contracts for three wind projects totaling 541 MW. AT&T was the second largest corporate buyer of wind for the year, contracting 460 MW from two projects. Facebook followed after AT&T with 440 MW.

Eighteen first-time buyers of wind entered the market last year. McDonald’s, Sprint, Ford Motor Company, Crown Holdings, and Gap were the leading first-time buyers of wind in 2019. McDonald’s became the first quick service restaurant company to buy wind energy, having purchased 220 MW. This led McDonald’s to land sixth in wind purchases for the year and into the top 20 for overall contracted capacity.

Before 2015, technology and retail companies made up nearly 80 percent of corporate wind energy purchases. Now the types of companies buying wind are diversifying. Today, technology and retail account for 53 percent of purchases. Wind energy purchases in the retail, food and beverage, and telecommunications sectors have increased significantly in the past few years.

The past six years have seen a large amount of growth for corporate wind purchases, with total contracts rising from fewer than 800 MW at the end of 2013 to over 16,800 MW at the end of 2019. Economics has been a major factor for this growth, AWEA said.

Wind is now the lowest-cost source of electricity generation in many parts of the country, thanks to costs declining more than 70 percent since 2009, AWEA said.

AWEA said that while corporate wind purchases have grown significantly in recent years, it is still a fairly new market and represents a large opportunity for future growth. Today, Fortune 1000 companies only source 5 percent of their electricity needs from renewables, it noted.

Utilities, individuals and businesses looking to reduce their respective carbon footprints buy renewable energy certificates. This is a green power procurement strategy used by electricity consumers to decrease the cost of their renewable electricity use, while also substantiating renewable electricity use and carbon footprint reduction claims.

The AWEA report is available for download here.