From land or sky, you can’t miss the solar array at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems’ manufacturing operation in Huntington, Indiana. More than 2,600 panels are lined up in perfect rows, covering a large field next to Plant 1. And now, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has taken note of the 1.168-megawatt solar installation as well: DOE named the Bendix solar effort a 2022 Better Project Award winner in the department’s Better Plants Program.
Better Plants, part of DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative, works with leading manufacturers to boost their competitiveness through improvements in energy efficiency. Awards in the Better Plants Program honor partners’ innovative, industry-leading work in energy efficiency, water efficiency, emissions reduction, and waste reduction. The Better Project Award acknowledges partners for outstanding accomplishments in implementing industrial energy, water, and waste projects at individual facilities.
“To be acknowledged by the Department of Energy is especially meaningful to us,” said Maria Gutierrez, Bendix director of corporate responsibility and sustainability. “We came on-line last August with the goal of reducing the company’s carbon footprint and, at the same time, generating cost savings. The installation is helping us do that – it’s satisfying about 30% of the energy needs at Plant 1, a massive manufacturing facility on the campus. In addition, it’s expected to decrease the Huntington operation’s carbon footprint by 19% and Bendix’s carbon footprint across North America by 3%. We’re pleased that our efforts have earned the respected distinction of a Better Project Award.”
The Department of Energy formally recognized Bendix and other Better Project Award honorees at this year’s Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit on May 18.
“Better Plants partners are combating the climate crisis through meaningful energy, water, and waste reduction efforts,” said Carolyn Snyder, deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency at the U.S. Department of Energy. “The Better Plants Better Practice and Better Project awards highlight innovation in industrial sustainability and a willingness to share good ideas.”
This is the second year in a row that Bendix has received recognition in the Better Plants Program. Last year, Bendix earned a 2021 Better Practice Award for its Zero Waste to Landfill self-certification process.
Powering the Future
Bendix, the North American leader in the design, development, and manufacture of active safety, air management, and braking solutions for commercial vehicles, 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.
“The solar array – Bendix’s first – produces electricity through 2,612 450-watt panels, and during the plant’s normal hours of operation, all the energy generated will be used by the facility,” said Bill Schubert, Bendix corporate manager, environmental and sustainability. “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.”
Indianapolis-based PSG Energy Group managed construction of the array, which when completed was the largest on-site solar installation in Huntington County. At full capacity, the solar project produces 1.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, delivering an estimated $140,000 in electric utility savings yearly.
With the installation, Bendix expects to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with its long-term sustainability goals. Key among them is the 2020 commitment by Bendix and parent company Knorr-Bremse to cut CO2 emissions in half by 2030. Additionally, in 2021, Knorr-Bremse ramped up efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by maximizing renewable energy purchases and offsetting energy use. Toward that end, over the past two years, the company has significantly exceeded its climate target of reducing CO2 emissions by 4.2% each year.
The next sustainability milestone for Bendix is the installation of two solar arrays at the Acuña, Mexico, manufacturing campus – each generating 1,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually and reducing the campus CO2 emissions from the 2018 baseline by 13%. This project was approved in 2021 and is on track to be completed in the second half of 2022.