For untold millennia, the power of the sun has provided sustenance to mankind. On a late summer day, as the sun beat down on suburban Chicago, executives at JTEKT Toyoda Americas Corp. celebrated the launch of a new solar energy system that will help power the facility and sustain the environment for the future.
The Aug. 23 ground breaking at the company’s headquarters in Arlington Heights, Illinois, is part of the company’s global environmental efforts. Company executives and employees, vendor partners and politicians gathered to mark the start of Toyoda’s solar panel installation, which event speakers said served as a supplement to JTEKT Toyoda’s environmental philosophy and the policy on the importance of sustainable growth and the shaping of a better future.
The field of solar power collectors will be built on seven acres of undeveloped land next to the company’s headquarters and will feature 5,040 solar panels. Once installed, the system is expected to output 2.3 million mW hours of power, producing a yearly CO2 offset of 1,819 metric tons, and a coal offset of almost two million tons per year, according to Howard Michael, president and COO of JTEKT Toyoda Americas Corp. Factoring in a maintenance warranty and property tax incentives, the company projects more than $1.85 million in energy cost savings over its lifetime.
These panels will “drastically offset our annual global power consumption,” said Michael in remarks at the event. “The solar field will have an immense impact on our environmental footprint and electrical savings for decades to come.”
Thomas Hayes, mayor of Arlington Heights, in remarks at the event, said the solar panel installation will be welcome in the village. “We’re very proud to have a company like JTEKT Toyoda Americas within our borders, one that shares our core values, including reliability, providing value through interaction, and most importantly, the concept of partnership with your customers, those that we serve,” he said. “This ecofriendly, green initiative will serve as a model for not only our businesses but for our residents to follow as well.”
The effort is part of the Toyoda Group’s Environmental Challenge 2050, which has as its goal minimizing environmental burdens and maximizing environmental value across the entire JTEKT group. The Illinois facility is a subsidiary of the machine tool division of JTEKT Corp., a global supplier of machine tools for the last 75 years. Originally manufactured for production of lines in Toyota Motors, the company’s products have expanded from metal grinding and milling technology to the advanced capabilities of gear skiving, “shaping remarkable ideas into tangible products,” said Michael.
Some of these “remarkable ideas” are designed to “safeguard the planet for future generations” by reducing carbon dioxide and waste emissions. Machinery improvements have created to improve efficiency and reduce energy usage.
According to Michael, Toyoda has implemented energy-saving CNC functions that require less energy consumption while still maintaining machine efficiency and productivity. He said that the company has developed machines capable of handling wider machining ranges for larger parts while maintaining high production improved energy efficiency.
The solar field is the newest “ecofriend” endeavor and is being built with the technical expertise of local solar energy company GRNE Solar and input from utilities, civic leaders, and others.
Eric Peterman, president of GRNE Solar, Palatine, Illinois, said in remarks at the event that planning to develop the solar project began 18 months ago.
Peterman explained that a solar panel works by allowing photons, or particles of light, to “knock electrons free from atoms,” generating a flow of electricity. The panels are made up of smaller units called photovoltaic cells that convert the light into electricity.
The energy created is in the form of direct current. To convert the DC into alternating current (AC), GRNE is integrating 21 inverters to be used step up power to AC.
“The sun beats on the solar panels, it goes through an inverter, then goes to the existing electrical service to power any loads that you have on the facility,” he said. The system, according to Peterman, which could power about 230 homes for a year, should more than satisfy the power requirements of the company’s facility.
The project is a perfect use for the company’s unused property, and fits with the corporate Environmental Action Plan that calls for every sector of the company to work collaboratively to environmentally benefit the local community and broader society.
The solar project, situated on land that went unused for more than 20 years, “just feels right,” said Michael. “For us, today, the word ‘groundbreaking’ stands for more than the literal breaking of ground. It stands for the groundbreaking synergy between Toyoda and the environmental partners, GRNE Solar, ComEd, and the Village of Arlington Heights. [It stands for] advancing toward a long-term sustainable solution that will encourage other industry leaders in the community to follow. This groundbreaking stands for our actions of choosing to invest in a more prosperous and certain future for the next generation.”