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Global non-energy companies out to harness solar power

According to reports, what do Google, Walmart and Apple have in common?

Apart from the fact that they are deep-pocketed American companies, they also happen to be solar investors. Recently, Google announced it would spend $103 million (Rs 630 crore) to buy a chunk of a solar farm in California. Incidentally, this investment would take Google’s total spends on clean energy beyond the $1-billion mark. Walmart did not have to go to solar farms. The retail giant has one resource needed for solar plants: it has 89 MW of solar power plants, mounted on 215 rooftops.

These are but two, marquee examples of a growing number of non-energy companies that are getting into solar energy worldwide. Their collective message is clear: solar makes economic sense.

Korean conglomerate Samsung wants to put up a 300-MW solar plant in Ontario, Canada (doesn’t count here, because that means Samsung getting into the energy business.) In 2012, French carmaker Renault completed six solar rooftop plants in France, totalling 59 MW.

Last week, the Solar Energy Industries Association, a body of American companies, came out with the second edition of its annual report, ‘Solar Means Business’, in which it named the 25 (non-energy) companies that had put up solar projects.

These companies — Google was not on the list — this year put up 445 MW of solar capacity across 950 locations. But the list is interesting more for the names than the achievement.

This is because their achievement of 445 MW is but a tiny fraction of what came up in the first two quarters of the current year: 3,380 MW of cumulative commercial solar capacity in 32,800 facilities.

That large Indian companies are not rushing to put up large solar power plants need not be seen as a let down, because even globally the trend of non-energy companies getting their roofs blazing with solar panels is a recent phenomenon. It is an impressive beginning.

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