This summer, something powerful took shape in a field southwest of Huntington: a 1.168-megawatt solar array that now provides power to a massive manufacturing plant on Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems’ local campus, decreasing its reliance on the local power grid and reducing the company’s carbon footprint in pursuit of sustainability. Bendix celebrated the installation coming on-line Wednesday with a showcase look at the completed project.

“Watching this come together over the past few months has been amazing, and it’s a genuine thrill to look out there next to the parking lot and see that what was once a vision of stepping toward a greener future is now a reality,” said Bill Schubert, Bendix corporate manager, environmental and sustainability. “Those solar panels soaking up the Indiana sunshine – even on cloudy days – will satisfy about 30% of Huntington Plant 1’s energy requirements and should decrease the campus’ carbon footprint by nearly 19% – about the equivalent of burning through more than 122,000 gallons of gasoline.”

Bendix designs, develops, and manufactures active safety, air management, and braking solutions for commercial vehicles and is a subsidiary of Munich, Germany-based Knorr-Bremse. The solar project is a key element of the company’s overall climate strategy, and over the past decade, Bendix has pursued and adopted the environmental strategies of its parent company, the global market leader for braking systems and a leading supplier of other rail and commercial vehicle systems.

Indianapolis-based PSG Energy Group managed construction of the array, which is now the largest on-site solar installation in Huntington County. At full capacity, the solar project produces 1.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, delivering an estimated $140,000 in annual electric utility savings.

The Bigger Picture

“Last year, Bendix and Knorr-Bremse committed to cutting CO2 emissions in half by 2030,” said Maria Gutierrez, Bendix director of corporate responsibility and sustainability. “Renewable energy projects like this solar array are just one way we’re working toward that goal, along with improving our energy efficiency and purchasing green energy.”

Bendix supports the United Nations’ (U.N.) 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 longtime sustainability efforts, among them Responsible Consumption and Production (encompassed within SDG 12) and Climate Action (the focus of SDG 13).

This year, Knorr-Bremse has increased its efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by maximizing renewable energy purchases and offsetting, and over the past two years, the company has significantly exceeded the climate target of reducing CO2 emissions by 4.2% each year.

The Huntington solar array will contribute a 3% decrease to Bendix’s carbon footprint across North America, furthering the company’s progress toward its climate goals. In 2020, Bendix diverted 99.9% of its waste from landfill, and over the past six years, the company has reduced its energy consumption by more than 14 million kilowatt-hours.

Powering the Future

Bendix’s solar installation produces electricity through 2,612 450-watt panels, and during the plant’s normal hours of operation, all of the energy generated will be used by the facility. During nonworking hours like weekends and holidays, however, Bendix will be able to send excess energy back to the electrical grid, increasing the utility’s green energy and reducing Bendix’s utility costs.

“We’re not alone in taking this route,” Schubert noted. “The new 1.168-megawatt array at Bendix is one of more than 4,700 residential and commercial installations across Indiana now providing the state with more than 473 megawatts of installed solar capacity. And when you look at the life expectancy of this array – about 30 years – it becomes even more apparent that there’s potential for a significant return on investment in the form of cost-free electricity once the project is amortized.”

Huntington’s Green Commitment

Huntington has helped lead Bendix’s sustainability objectives for several years, having achieved zero industrial waste to landfill status in 2017 and zero waste to landfill status in November 2019. It is one of the nine Bendix manufacturing locations to have achieved the company’s official Zero Waste to Landfill certification.

Schubert also added that Bendix plans to plant wildflowers beneath the solar array this fall to help maintain a natural environment of native flora and encourage pollinators.

Another notable zero-waste practice in place at the site is the use of a low-energy consuming, vacuum distillation recovery and reuse system, installed at Huntington Plant 2 in 2018, which allows 80% of the facility’s wastewater to be reused, reducing discharge and the use of additional fresh water.

“With the support of Bendix and Knorr-Bremse, the Huntington team has truly embraced our sustainability goals, and this facility serves as a great example of what we hope to achieve across more of our locations as part of our plans to combat climate change,” Gutierrez said. “It’s an important and inspiring step in improving the planet for future generations.”

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