Verizon to become solar-power leader in the U.S. telecom industry

Verizon exceeded its 10 MW green-energy target and has deployed 14.2 MW

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Verizon announced that it will invest nearly $40 million to expand the on-site green energy program that it launched in 2013.

This year, Verizon will install 10.2 megawatts (MW) of new solar power systems at eight Verizon network facilities in five states: California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. The new investments nearly double the amount of renewable power generated by solar energy systems installed at six Verizon facilities last year.

To date, Verizon has invested nearly $140 million in on-site green energy. With the 2014 solar investment announced today, Verizon is on target to deploy 25 MW of green energy upon completion of the new solar projects, according to James Gowen, Verizon’s chief sustainability officer.

All of Verizon’s energy-efficiency strategies support a goal of cutting in half the amount of carbon emissions produced per terabyte of data flowing through Verizon’s global wired and domestic wireless networks by 2020.

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James Gowen, Verizon's chief sustainability officer, stands in front of a solar power field at the company's New Jersey data center.

The new solar systems will generate enough green energy to power more than 8,500 homes each year, according to Verizon. Verizon’s total green-energy efforts are expected to offset 22,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, which is equivalent to taking nearly 5,000 passenger vehicles off the road each year.

“By almost doubling the amount of renewable, solar energy we’re using, we are making further progress toward Verizon’s goal of cutting our carbon intensity in half by 2020, in part, by leveraging the proven business case for clean-energy alternatives to the commercial power grid,” Gowen said in a statement.

With this announcement, Verizon is on track to become the No. 1 solar-power producer among all U.S. communications companies, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a U.S. trade group.

“In fact, we project that Verizon will be among the top 20 of all companies nationwide in terms of the number of solar installations it operates, and one of the top 10 companies in the U.S. based on solar generating capacity,” said SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch.

Billions saved through renewables

Clean energy is no longer the bastion of environmentalists and companies hoping to improve their public image.

Increasing the use of renewable energy has become a targeted goal of almost half of Fortune 500 companies, and with good reason. According to a new report, more than half of Fortune 100 companies collectively saved $1.1 billion in energy costs by rolling out renewable energy programs.

The report, "Power Forward 2.0," was put together by Ceres, David Gardiner & Associates, Calvert Investments and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

According to the report, 43% of Fortune 500 companies, or 215 in all, have set targets in one of three categories: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy efficiency and using renewable energy. When narrowed to just the Fortune 100, 60% of the companies have set the same clean energy goals.

Leading the charge to reach targets in the three categories of green energy initiatives are companies such as AT&T, Caterpillar, Dow Chemical, General Electric, General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Sprint and Wal-Mart.

For its part, AT&T had a 2012 goal of adding 5 MW of power from alternative energy sources from a 2011 baseline of 3.9 MW. The carrier surpassed the target, adding 7 MW generated with alternative energy. AT&T has installed 11 MW total as of 2013; it now gets 13% of its energy from renewable sources.

Verizon contracted with SunPower Corp. to design and install all of its solar systems. The new equipment consists of rooftop, parking-structure and ground-mounted solar photovoltaic systems.

“These panels are guaranteed for 25 years, but they’ll probably last for 40 years,“ said Karen Butterfield, SunPower’s managing director for national accounts.

Last year, Verizon exceeded its 10 MW green-energy target, and has deployed 14.2 MW of on-site green energy using a combination of fuel cells and solar power systems.

Verizon was also an early adopter of fuel cell technologies, investing in one of the largest fuel cell sites of its kind in 2005 to power a call-switching center and office building in Garden City, New York. Verizon also uses 26 solar-assisted cell sites in remote areas in the western U.S. to help power a portion of the nation’s largest and most reliable wireless network.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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