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Crews started installing a new solar array atop the Beijing Foton Cummins Engine Company in China last month.

Cummins is making a significant investment in solar energy, projecting it will have 35 onsite solar projects completed by the end of 2020.

And that’s just the beginning. The projects completed by the end of 2020 are expected to collectively meet about 3.5% of the company's power needs. Cummins believes it could eventually meet about 10% of its electricity needs through onsite solar.

The Cummins plant in Juarez, Mexico, added a solar array over part of its parking lot in 2018.

“We believe onsite solar photovoltaic is important, but by itself won’t achieve our carbon reduction goals,” said Mark Dhennin, Director of Energy & Environment at Cummins. “That’s why we need off-site projects, too, like our support for the Meadow Lake Wind Farm in northwest Indiana.”

Cummins’ share of the wind farm expansion, through a virtual power purchase agreement, has a peak generation capacity of about 75 megawatts (MW), which will produce the equivalent of about 28% of the company’s global electricity needs. The electricity doesn’t go directly to a Cummins’ facility, but rather provides an off-set of renewable power that goes to the grid.

The solar and wind initiatives are part of Cummins’ goal to increase its use and promotion of renewable energy. The company wants to do its part to address the world’s environmental challenges such as climate change.

THE SPREAD OF SOLAR

Cummins currently has completed solar arrays at 12 locations around the world from Australia to North America. Work is taking place on new solar installations at 16 additional Cummins sites, including 12 in India. Arrays are planned at another nine Cummins facilities, including sites in Nigeria, Romania and Australia.

The largest solar array within the company is on top of the Beijing Foton Cummins Engine Company (BFCEC) in Beijing, China, one of the company’s busiest plants. Plant Manager Miguel Kindler says the array on top of the larger of the two buildings at BFCEC was constructed in 2016 and covers about 650,000 square feet or roughly two-thirds of the roof. It generates about 15% of the building’s electricity needs.

The Beijing Foton Cummins Engine Company in China is adding an array to its second building (far right).

Crews recently started work on a second array atop the other building at the plant. While smaller, the new array will generate about the same amount of energy as the larger installation thanks to the latest technology and is conservatively projected to supply 15% to 20% of the second building’s electricity needs.

“When you are talking about 15% to 20% of a building’s energy consumption, that’s a pretty nice bump,” Kindler said.

Not every Cummins site, however, is a good candidate for solar. The company bases its decisions on installing solar on a range of factors, including economic circumstances in addition to environmental conditions, such as how much sun a site receives. That’s another reason Dhennin and his team are exploring off-site options.

GOAL DRIVEN

The spread of solar comes as Cummins wraps up work on its 2020 environmental sustainability goals and turns its attention to the company’s 2030 goals and 2050 aspirations included in the recently announced PLANET 2050 strategy. The 2020 goals call for the company to “increase the portion of electricity Cummins uses derived from renewable sources.”

The 2030 goals included in the PLANET 2050 strategy call for reducing absolute greenhouse gas emissions from facilities and operations by 50%. Increasing the use of renewable power would significantly help toward that target.

PLANET 2050 logo

Cummins' PLANET 2050 strategy is designed to guide the company's efforts addressing climate change and other environmental challenges.

The company’s 2050 aspirations include having a net positive environmental impact everywhere the community operates and a near zero local environmental impact, which would also both benefit from using and promoting renewable energy.

“It’s clear that renewable energy will play an important role if Cummins is to reach its goals and aspirations,” Dhennin said. “I think we’re off to a good start, but there’s significantly more to be done."