Leaders from around the world have gathered in Paris for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21), with the goal of negotiating a binding, universal agreement on measures to reduce human-caused climate change.
These world leaders will try to build consensus on measures to bring Earth’s temperatures down to 3.6 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Though it won’t be easy, the assembled business leaders, policymakers and heads of state believe it’s critical to the survival of the planet that these actions be embraced by every country. While we can’t predict what the outcome of these negotiations will be, it’s clear the United States must lead on this issue—and that’s where you can act for your business, no matter what happens at COP 21.
According to expert estimates, the U.S. has approximately 50 billion square feet of commercial rooftop space, about 25 percent of which is suitable for solar installations. If you assume a production capacity of around 10 watts per square foot, those commercial rooftops could produce nearly 125 GW of clean power—nearly seven times what’s currently installed in the entire U.S.
A commercial rooftop is defined as a rooftop that’s not on a residence; in other words, the definition covers markets that you wouldn’t traditionally think of as commercial. For example, solar serves retailers, farmers, hospitality, businesses, office complexes, hospitals, warehouses, government and schools—and that’s not even a complete list.
Leading national consumers of commercial solar like Apple, Google, IKEA and Walmart have already realized that solar installations reduce utility bills and cut carbon emissions, and they’ve invested heavily in putting solar arrays on buildings throughout their operations.
So how much can your business make a difference in terms of carbon reductions if you install solar panels? That answer depends on many factors, but let’s be clear: Every reduction in carbon-based energy counts for our planet. For the sake of simplicity, here are three scenarios for three solar installations:
- If you install a 1 MW solar array on the roof of your Southern California business, each year you’ll reduce carbon emissions that are the equivalent of 100,000 gallons of gas consumed or 963,000 pounds of coal burned.
- A 750 kW system each year eliminates carbon emissions equivalent to 75,000 gallons of gas consumed or 722,000 pounds of coal burned.
- A 500 kW system each year eliminates carbon emissions equivalent to 50,000 gallons of gas consumed or 481,000 pounds of coal burned.
(Calculations based on equivalence data from the Environmental Protection Agency)
Putting a solar system on your business isn’t only about protecting the environment. After all, installing a solar system is a business investment and, like any other investment, you should expect a return. A solar installation could help you reduce your utility bills: the exact amount that you’ll be able to save will depend on a number of factors, including which utility serves you, its electricity rates and your business’ energy consumption. In addition, a commercial solar installation would serve as a powerful demonstration of your company’s commitment to sustainability and climate change.
The Bottom Line
As world leaders find common ground to break the international impasse on bringing human-induced climate change under control, let them know how serious you are about climate change by making a difference in your own company and local communities. Installing a solar array is a good first step to providing future generations with a livable planet.
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