A new solar installation planned by Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC (Bendix) will lead to the reduction of carbon emissions equivalent to the amount generated by 1,000 cars driving from coast to coast in the United States, or burning through some 122,467 gallons of gasoline.
It’s all part of Bendix’s first-ever solar energy project, a 1.168-megawatt solar array that will be installed at the company’s Huntington, Indiana, campus beginning in April. A kickoff event is scheduled for April 20.
Construction of the company’s first solar array will be managed by PSG Energy Group, based in Indianapolis, and the project will result in the largest on-site solar installation in Huntington County.
Expected to be completed in September 2021, the solar array will be located at Huntington Plant 1. When fully operational, the installation will produce 1.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity – enough to satisfy around 30 percent of the site’s requirements and deliver an estimated $140,000 in electric utility savings annually. At this level of use, the solar array is also projected to contribute a nearly 19 percent decrease to the Huntington campus carbon footprint and a 3 percent decrease to Bendix’s carbon footprint enterprise-wide.
“We’re thrilled to turn the key on this amazing investment in our future for the Huntington campus, for Bendix, and for our parent company, Knorr-Bremse. Investing in solar energy has been a longstanding goal for Bendix, and to have this happen in Huntington – a campus with such a rich history of growth and achievement – is a proud moment for the operation and for the community,” said Maria Gutierrez, director of corporate responsibility and sustainability, Bendix. “It’s the right time and place for a project of this size and scale.”
Gutierrez said space availability, budgetary factors, and supply capabilities all played a role in Huntington’s selection for the project.
The solar project is a key element of the company’s overall climate strategy. Over more than a decade, Bendix has pursued and adopted the environmental strategies of parent company Knorr-Bremse.
Bendix supports the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 overarching objectives providing guidance on how to make business activities compatible with sustainable development. Five key SDGs have been at the core of Bendix’s sustainability efforts, among them Responsible Consumption and Production (encompassed within SDG 12) and Climate Action (the focus of SDG 13).
Together, the organizations stepped up their overall climate plan in 2020, committing to cut CO2 emissions in half by 2030. Knorr-Bremse and Bendix have pursued three avenues to do this: investments in improved energy efficiency, the purchase or installation of renewable energy projects, and the purchase of green energy. In the past two years, Knorr-Bremse has significantly exceeded the climate target of reducing CO2 emissions by 4.2 percent each year. Additionally, Knorr-Bremse aims to achieve carbon neutrality by maximizing renewable energy purchase and offsetting starting 2021.
This year, Huntington’s solar project supports the organization’s larger environmental goals in similar ways.
“In 2020, we celebrated significant progress toward our climate goals, as Bendix reduced its energy consumption more than 14 million kilowatt-hours over the last six years and diverted 99.9 percent of its waste from landfill,” said Bill Schubert, corporate manager, environmental and sustainability, Bendix. “This year’s solar project in Huntington supports our larger environmental goals in similar ways. By achieving a nearly 19 percent reduction in Huntington from the new solar array, we’ll provide a major contribution to Knorr-Bremse’s global commitment on the path to achieving carbon neutrality.”
Bendix’s Huntington complex has achieved a series of milestones in growth, performance, corporate responsibility, and sustainability in the years since it opened in 1980. Initially established as a 30-worker manufacturing and distribution center, the location now employs over 500 people across multiple plants.
In 2019, the company acquired a new location for expansion and realignment of its operations, bringing the complex to 855,000 square feet across four buildings. Manufacturing operations at the site now include air compressor and brake shoe remanufacturing, electronics assembly, and manufacturing of integrated modules and engine vibration dampers. Additionally, the site is home to Bendix’s primary North American distribution center. The site has been ISO 14001 certified since 2003 and has been recognized for its high standards of performance with regard to quality and safety. More than 40,000 Bendix part numbers are managed in Huntington, which distributes to more than 4,500 aftermarket ship-to locations and 1,500 manufacturer ship-to locations.
One of Huntington County’s top employers, Bendix Huntington contributes approximately $26 million per year to the area’s economy through payroll, taxes, and payments to local suppliers.
The operation also has secured a pivotal role in supporting the company’s sustainability objectives, having achieved zero industrial waste to landfill status in 2017 and zero waste to landfill status in November 2019. As such, it is one of the nine Bendix manufacturing locations to have achieved the company’s official Zero Waste to Landfill certification.
Another notable zero-waste practice in place at the site is the use of a zero air emission, low-energy consuming, vacuum distillation recovery and reuse system, installed at Huntington Plant 2 in 2018, which allows 80 percent of the facility’s wastewater to be reused, reducing discharge and the use of additional fresh water.
Bendix Huntington has also been a leading force in the community, supporting a variety of charitable causes and organizations. Since 2016, Huntington employees have spent nearly 8,000 hours volunteering in support of local causes.
Bendix’s planned solar project also includes features that make it unique to the industry and to the community. The installation will produce electricity with the use of some 2,612 450-watt solar panels. While 100 percent of the electricity produced will be used by the facility during normal hours of operation, Bendix will be able to send excess energy back to the electrical grid during nonworking hours, such as weekends and holidays, resulting in contributions of green energy to the utility and reductions to the site’s utility costs.
The company’s solar effort is one of 3,600 such projects installed to date in Indiana. The projects collectively represent 473 megawatts of production for solar array installations by PSG and other suppliers across the state. Return on investment for the project is expected to be significant. With a life expectancy of 30 years for the array, the Huntington site may eventually benefit from a virtually cost-free source of electricity once the project is amortized.
“Constructing this solar array in Huntington is another highlight of our overall plan to combat climate change,” Gutierrez said. “This investment in green energy meets our objectives, which are to invest in projects that reduce our electricity demands while also reducing our overall carbon footprint. This project does both of those things, fitting into our long-term sustainability goals and setting the stage for future endeavors.”