11/04/2022 | by
The solar installation at Prologis’ International Park of Commerce in Tracy, California. Photo courtesy of Prologis.

The U.S. is shifting toward a greater interest in renewable energy, and the rooftop areas of buildings across the country offer a potential source of energy generation with the installation of solar panels.

REIT properties have an estimated 3.5 billion square feet of roof space available for solar generation. While it is not feasible to use this entire roof area for solar panels, and indeed some of it is already in use for solar energy generation, this estimate provides a starting point to consider the untapped potential in the U.S. for rooftop solar panel installation.

In 2019, REITs owned approximately 236,000 properties with roofs. These properties have an estimated 3.45 billion square feet of roof space based on their total area and estimated number of floors. REITs own a variety of property types—not all with roofs.

Estimated Available Roof Area by Property Type

The table above shows the number of properties and the estimated roof area in millions of square feet by property type for buildings with roofs.

These numbers are estimated using total property size in square feet from GeoPhy’s data collection for the top 100 listed equity REITs by equity market capitalization and REITs Across America data for all other listed equity REITs in 2019.

Kimco Rooftop Property
Kimco Realty Corporation’s Lincoln Square includes a 39,547-square-foot green rooftop that provides a unique community amenity for residents. Photo courtesy of Kimco Realty Corporation.

To estimate roof area, total area is scaled by the average number of floors for each property type as given by the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2012 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). To account for the number of REIT office properties in central business districts, the analysis uses an estimated average of 10 floors instead of the lower CBECS average of 1.87. The average number of stories for residential multifamily properties is from the Census Bureau’s 2019 Annual Housing Survey.

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