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Toyota and other corporations are accelerating renewable energy development

Solar panels
Ford Motor Company
Solar panels in Michigan

Toyota says it will offset 40% of its global warming emissions from its North American operations within three years.

It will do that by buying contracts for new wind and solar projects.

The Toyota commitment is part of an encouraging trend, according to Greg Wetstone, CEO of the American Council on Renewable  Energy.

He says the volume of renewable power sold to corporations tripled between 2017 and 2018, with  corporations adding 8,600 megawatts of new wind and solar to the grid in 2018 alone, either through their own solar projects, or, like Toyota, purchasing contracts from companies that build new wind farms or solar arrays.

"A  few years ago, if you wanted to sell wind or solar power at scale, you had to go to an electric utility," says Wetstone.  "Now, there's a vibrant marketplace that includes a bunch of other electric customers at a big scale that you can look to."

Wetstone says very large corporations, such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google, have committed to powering their power-hungry data centers with renewable power.

"I believe Google is already there (at 100%)," says Wetstone, "and they're continuing to look for ways to improve.  And Walmart has been a pioneer in solar, with solar arrays on the top of their stores."

In Michigan, renewable energy got a boost from contracts purchased by Ford Motor Company and General Motors for new wind energy from DTE Energy.  

Wetstone says the pace is still not fast enough to address climate change.  He says customers can urge businesses they patronize to follow the lead of others, and purchase contracts for renewable energy, or install solar panels themselves.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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