Decentralized Energy readers may be familiar with the excellent data produced quarterly by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership – it lists US companies that rely on green power generated on-site.
One or two big names are in the latest top 30 list. General Motors, BMW and Volkswagen all have US manufacturing sites in the list that use on-site biogas and solar installations to generate between 16% and two-fifths of their total power needs. Several wastewater treatment sites use locally-produced biogas to generate some or all of their electricity needs; one generates another third on top for export.
Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores tops the list in the overall quantity of on-site power generated (solar, wind), although this amounts to just 1% of its total power needs. Apple Inc uses on-site biogas and solar again, but to produce 15% of its electricity. And the US Department of Energy employs biomass, small-scale hydro, solar and on-site wind resources, to generate lots of power, but just 2% of its needs.
Now, UK-based renewables aggregator SmartestEnergy has released data on Britain’s independent renewables generators – defined as outside the traditional electricity supply sector and including companies investing in their own on-site plant. Smartest says that independent renewables generators were responsible for meeting 8% of total UK electricity demand in 2015 and are thus an important – and growing – part of Britain’s transition to a low carbon and decentralized economy.
Corporate on-site renewables development grew significantly in 2015, says SmartestEnergy. Developers built 408 independent projects, adding over 2 GW of generating capacity. Meanwhile, businesses invested in 155 new on-site projects, adding 99 MW of new energy capacity to save on power bills, boost their energy security and cut their carbon footprint. There are now 728 sites around the UK.
So which businesses invest in on-site power? Smartest suggests that the most active sectors were retailers and wholesalers; with supermarkets and warehouses with roofs suited to solar developing 88 new projects and adding 9 MW of new capacity. Farmers and landowners built 209 new projects in 2015, with a combined capacity of 56 MW. And waste disposal operators added 77 MW with two big energy-from-waste projects.
Decentralised and on-site generators form an important part of the energy scene on both sides of the Atlantic.