Solar Deal from Corning Brings Corporations to 3 GW for 2015

Even before December arrived, 2015 had proven a record-breaking year for corporate purchasing of large-scale wind and solar energy. Less than a month ago, the YTD contracted capacity stood at 2.1 GW, far exceeding the 1.2 GW of 2014 that previously held the record. But these final weeks of 2015 have seen corporations announce additional major renewable energy deals that are pushing the year-end total far higher—and companies affiliated with the Business Renewables Center (BRC) continue to be at the heart of the story.

Earlier this month, Google announced a staggering 842 MW of new wind and solar, including from BRC companies Invenergy, EDF Renewable Energy, and RES Americas. BRC company Bloomberg also announced 20 MW from EDP Renewables to offset energy use of its New York offices with electricity from an in-state wind farm.

Now today, Fortune 500 member Corning Incorporated announces ~50 MW of solar from BRC company Duke Energy Renewables, inching the market tantalizingly close to—and potentially beyond—the symbolic 3 GW number.

Beginning in Q1 2016, Corning will purchase about 62 percent of the expected output from an 80 MW solar farm in Conetoe, North Carolina. When completed at the end of this year, it will become the largest solar-generating facility east of the Mississippi River. The deal will give Corning an estimated 120,300 MWh per year of solar energy, enough to equal the annual power usage of roughly 10,000 U.S. homes.

“Corning now belongs among a select group of companies that have taken action on renewable procurement through long-term contracts. These contracts directly enable project developers to build new solar and wind capacity,” says Hervé Touati, a managing director at RMI and head of the BRC. “Beyond pioneers from the ICT sector, we are seeing this year large corporations such as Corning—coming from a variety of industrial and services sectors—entering the market for the first time as fast followers. It is a strong indication that long-term renewable energy contracts are becoming increasingly relevant to all Fortune 500 companies, and will soon become the standard way of running business.”

“Corning is committed to reducing its carbon footprint, and this is a major step in that direction,” Jeffrey Evenson, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Corning, said in a press release. “Going green makes good business sense because it encourages efficiencies and clean power usage that eventually lower costs. We believe this decision fits our corporate mission to be a good steward of the environment.”

Today’s announcement is the latest in Corning’s ongoing commitment to clean air and clean energy. The company produced the first emissions control substrate that enabled the auto industry to meet standards set in the Clean Air Act in 1972. Corning Environmental Technologies focuses on substrates and filters to trap particular emissions from diesel and gasoline exhaust for light- and heavy-duty applications. In 2006, Corning established its Global Energy Management program, which has saved the company more than $410 million in cumulative energy costs to date. And in both 2014 and 2015, Corning received the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award.

“Serving Corning’s commitment to clean energy is a great example of the customer-centric solutions we can offer to organizations,” said Greg Wolf, president of Duke Energy’s Commercial Portfolio, in the joint press release. “In delivering this quality project, we’re proud to bring more solar power to North Carolina as we partner with Corning to advance their environmental stewardship.”

Adds Ed Lieberman, VP of Customer Development at CustomerFirst Renewables, a founding BRC sponsor who helped orchestrate the deal: “We’re proud to see Corning make this powerful statement with its 25-year physical contract for solar energy.”

As 2015 draws to a close, Corning—and the BRC—have sights set on the years ahead. “Today’s announcement is testimony to our corporate citizenship,” said Patrick Jackson, director of Corning’s Global Energy Management program, in a statement, “and the first of what we hope to be a series of projects focusing on utilizing greener energy sources.” The BRC and its member companies are doing just that—streamlining and accelerating corporate purchasing of large-scale wind and solar energy, from nearly 3 GW in 2015 to 60 GW cumulative by 2025.