06/25/2021 | by
Solar Panels on a shipping facility
Photo courtesy of Duke Realty.

This is a case study that's a part of the 2021 REIT Industry ESG Report, an annual report detailing the REIT industry's environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance details in the publicly traded U.S. REIT industry. Featured case studies showcase REIT leadership and ESG innovation from a variety of sectors and serve as a practical tool for stakeholders to assess the scale and impact of the REIT industry's ESG commitments and initiatives.

Duke Realty is committed to working on environmentally responsible developments and building operations, and to making sure the company has a strong plan for a sustainable, high-performance future. Engaging in renewable energy projects, and particularly in solar projects, emerged as a right-fit approach for Duke Realty to expand across its distribution and warehouse property portfolio, due to its large, unencumbered roof spaces.

Throughout 2020, the organization made strides to improve its renewable energy strategy and increase capacity on its sites. For their solar initiatives, Duke Realty focuses on two unique project elements that align with its overall sustainability approach.

First, it documents successful practices and processes uncovered through these projects to help scale renewable energy efforts at different sites across the portfolio. The organization has been developing a "playbook" of top considerations relative to negotiations and partnerships, strategies for ensuring buildings are properly equipped for solar, standard operating procedures, potential roadblocks to avoid, and other implementation tips to train its network to engage in similar projects in the future. This focus on identifying and documenting leading practices will also help Duke Realty track what projects are most successful in different markets and circumstances.

Secondly, Duke Realty encourages the incorporation of community solar elements and enhancements whenever possible, enabling a certain amount of clean energy to go back to low-income households, leasing solar space to the community and tenants, and incorporating positive environmental impacts such as the installation of drought tolerant landscaping, plants and flowers.

As an illustrative example of this approach, the organization, in partnership with Solar Landscape, recently embarked on a four-building Community Solar initiative in New Jersey. The system is 11.07 MW and will produce a combined 13,500,000 kWh in one year, or enough to power 2200 NJ households annually. To incorporate community impact into this initiative, 50% of the project will provide affordable, local solar energy for low-to-moderate income households.

"We do not just build buildings, but rather strive to leave our communities better than we found them—which is why we encourage and support development of community solar whenever feasible. We see each project not only as adding to our collective renewable portfolio, but as an opportunity for capturing more lessons learned to continuously improve and expand our solar commitments."
Megan Basore, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility

Duke Realty currently has 28.198 MW of solar on its roofs across 11 buildings either installed or under construction, with another seven currently being negotiated.

Moving forward, Duke Realty’s lessons learned from its initial solar projects will help more renewable energy initiatives take shape across its portfolio—delivering value to both tenants and communities, by providing much needed renewable energy capacity to the electric grid.

Duke Realty is the leading pure-play, domestic-only logistics property REIT in the United States, owning and operating approximately 159 million rentable square feet in 20 major U.S. logistics markets.

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