Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems: Installing a Solar Photovoltaic System to Reduce Costs and Emissions

Background

Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC’s Huntington Manufacturing Campus in Indiana employs 564 workers across 4 facilities to manufacture and remanufacture parts for commercial vehicles. Bendix is committed to cutting its CO2 emissions in half by 2030 via a three-level approach: 1. Energy Efficiency, 2. Renewable Generation, and 3. Renewable Purchases. Bendix chose the Huntington campus as its first North American site to build an onsite solar photovoltaic system. The $1.6 million project will produce 1,500,000 kWh per year, reduce the Bendix Huntington Plant’s grid-supplied electricity consumption by 30%, and reduce its total carbon footprint by 19%.  

For the past two years, the Huntington Manufacturing Campus has purchased Green-E Certified Renewable Energy Credits to cover all of its electricity consumption. The facilities team has also concentrated on efficiency projects like electrification of tooling (to replace compressed air-powered tooling), HVAC unit replacement, LED lighting, and expanding real-time sub-metering across the plant. In addition, specific process-related projects like retrofitting washing operations for the bake oven have been implemented to improve energy efficiency. 

Solutions

Bendix installed 2,612 ground-mounted solar panels at their Huntington Manufacturing Campus in Indiana as part of Bendix’s onsite renewable energy strategy. In addition to directly powering plant operations, net metering allows Huntington to send renewable energy back to the grid when supply exceeds power demand at Huntington Plant 1. The solar photovoltaic system saves the Huntington campus about $140,000 a year in avoided electricity costs and generates an additional $3,000 a month in revenue from the sale of excess renewable power. 

Internal planning discussions for the solar project started in the 4th quarter of 2019. At that time, Bendix’s parent company, Knorr-Bremse Group, launched phase II of their Climate Strategy, which included allocating a central budget for CO2 emissions reduction projects. Bendix North America was already prepared with a large pipeline of energy-related projects and promptly applied for an on-site solar photovoltaic system in the United States. The Bendix Corporate Sustainability team launched a Request for Proposal to five Indiana solar companies in August 2020 with a deadline of September 2020. A project commitment was created with a wide array of Bendix professionals from various departments including Health, Safety & Environmental (HSE); Procurement; Purchasing; Finance; and Legal. Bendix also requested support from an outside consulting firm. After meeting with all the bidders several times and reviewing the proposals, the top three bidders were selected in September 2020. The committee met with the top three suppliers and made a final selection in October 2020. The Bendix team presented the project to the Knorr-Bremse Group Executive Board for final approval in Germany in November 2020. The final cost of the project was $1.7 million.

The solar photovoltaic system allows the Huntington branch to avoid $140,000 in costs each year from avoided electricity purchases from the utility company. A 26% federal solar investment tax credit during 2020-2021 was an influential motivator for the Knorr-Bremse Group to select a U.S.-based site for this project. Net-metering, which allows the installation to sell renewable energy back to the grid, has allowed the Huntington plant to generate an average of $3,000 per month since August 2021. The net present value of the overall project was $220,000 with an internal rate of return of 10.5% and a payback period of 13 years.

Energy consumption data is tracked in real-time through a submetering system, with a special focus on high-consuming equipment (compressors and HVAC systems). The company’s energy consumption report focuses on data collection and year-over-year comparisons to ensure the location is aligned with the company’s sustainability goals. These goals include a 50% CO2 emissions reduction from a 2018 baseline and a 2% total kWh reduction compared to the previous year's (same month) consumption. For 2021, the site reduced 6% of its emissions even though the operational footprint increased by 48% from 460,905 square feet to 883,305 square feet with the addition of the Bendix Distribution Center. This demonstrates the impact of energy efficiency improvements and the renewable energy project on the site’s sustainability performance. For electricity consumption, comparing January 2021 to January 2022 shows a total usage reduction of 5% and a reduction of utility-purchased energy of 25%. The site is on track to meet the 50% CO2 reduction goal by 2030. Tracking absolute emissions reduction, rather than using a relative measure like emissions per square foot, increases the importance of project design, as business expansions must account for the additional energy to be consumed while still meeting overall emissions reduction targets.

Graph 1 shows site electricity data for 2021 and shows the month-to-month contribution of the Solar Photovoltaic System to Huntington Plant 1’s kWh consumption. It also highlights the cost reduction seen since the start of the system in August 2021.

Graph 1: Month-to-month electricity consumption and cost between 2020 and 2021

Image 1: Solar photovoltaic system at the Huntington campus