Inovateus Solar’s sustainable roots began in 2006 with its mission of “Building a Brilliant Tomorrow.” Since then, the company has developed over 400 megawatts (MW) of municipal, commercial, industrial, educational, and utility solar projects, primarily in the Midwest. While their solar work has added to the U.S. clean energy transition, Inovateus realized that standard solar development could still cause negative environmental impacts during construction and over the project’s 25-year lifetime.
“It’s great for solar companies to be helping the world transition to renewable energy, but it’s two steps forward and one step back if our work harms the environment,” said Tyler Kanczuzewski, Inovateus Vice President of Marketing & Sustainability. “We can’t accomplish this alone, so we’re cultivating a network of sustainable habits among ourselves, our community, our customers, and with all of our vendors and partners. By working together, we’ll continue our founders’ mission of ‘building a brilliant tomorrow’ for the Midwest and the world.”
Inovateus Solar is now blazing a really cool path to develop more sustainable solar projects, outined in detail in its first annual sustainability report. The report outlines the company’s 2019 sustainability initiatives and sets new decade goals for developing sustainable solar projects with zero-waste construction and sustainable end-of-life-cycle decommissioning.
Here are some highlights.
Step one: Stewardship team
To start off, Inovateus created an environmental stewardship team to focus on energy conservation, resource preservation, zero-waste construction practices, ecological restoration, community engagement, and end-of-life decommissioning strategies.
In its first annual report, Inovateus describes its 2019 sustainability efforts and sets a comprehensive long-term vision for sustainable solar and energy storage project development.
Some goals the team has set:
1. Submit Energy Star Certified Building application
2 Green Purchasing Procurement Certifi cation
3. Design awards for partners that improve their sustainability efforts and reduce their carbon footprint
4. Achieve “zero waste” at approximately 50% of all project sites
5. Install plant pollinator grass at a minimum of 1 project site for
6. Recycle a minimum of 100 solar modules, with module recycling organization
7. Reduce water waste at all facilities and job sites
8. Greatly increase recycling at all facilities, reduce printing and use more eco-friendly products; includes starting to measure and record waste.
9. Adopt “Eco fund” for ecological goals and initiatives
10. Initiate new team challenge(s) based around reducing waste
11. Calculate Inovateus carbon footprint, and determine reduction
methods for 2020 and beyond
12. Finalize Master Sustainability Plan
13. Plan and adopt smarter air travel methods
Step two: Carbon neutral operations
To lead by example, Inovateus developed a plan for its operations to be 100% carbon neutral by 2025. As its first steps, Inovateus upgraded its South Bend, Indiana headquarters with a 48 kWac solar PV array, two electric vehicle chargers, smart LED lighting, and a smart thermostat, reducing over 34 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
With further upgrades, Inovateus expects to eventually achieve Energy Star certification for its headquarters by the end of 2020. Numerous other internal sustainability efforts are described in the 2019 report.
Step 3: Net positive solar development
For its clients, Inovateus’ sustainability plan emphasizes being “energy intelligent” through using technology that is energy efficient while having a net positive impact on the environment and solar project profitability.
For example, Inovateus can design solar projects with higher efficiency solar panels, trackers, and inverters that will maximize solar generation and land usage. In addition to preserving land, energy efficient designs can reduce equipment costs while reducing the associated carbon footprint of manufacturing, shipping, and packaging. To enable this goal, Inovateus will be obtaining a green purchasing procurement certification in 2020.
Because solar projects last 25 years or longer, Inovateus is offering new sustainability services for end-of-life cycle project planning, recycling solar panels and other equipment, decommissioning, and land restoration.
For solar project stewardship that can immediately benefit communities, Inovateus has set a goal of achieving zero construction waste for at least half of its 2020 projects. Additionally, Inovateus now offers planting bee-pollinator grass under solar arrays instead of standard seedlings. With bee-pollinator plants, project owners will help maintain natural bee habitats by eliminating the pesticides that are typically sprayed on solar project landscapes.
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— Solar Builder magazine