Take a local Fortune 500 company and mix in concepts like green, renewable, integration, organic, smart, and ever-increasingly global, and you’ve got Glendale-based Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI). In mid-October, the organization gave a year-end summary and forecast for 2011 from the building that houses the New York Stock Exchange.
Increased press and the corporation’s 125th anniversary since its local inception preceded the summary announcement of moves made on the global stage in 2010, and plans for ventures in 2011 and beyond. What started locally as a business making thermostats has blossomed into a multifaceted global player in trimming clients’ energy bills by offering energy solutions, moving toward producing standardized components of car interiors (often by using “renewable” materials), and taking the lead in developing vehicle batteries for combustion engines, hybrids and, looking forward, electric modes of transportation .
Perhaps no company, local or otherwise, is more poised to take green global in providing solutions that save energy, resources and money for the end consumer. Furthermore, in a world marketplace, Johnson Controls uses diversity as a strength in helping green save green. For example, lead acid battery factories have begun to spring up throughout China, where labor is cheap, and a growing middle class is fueling a boom in demand for autos (currently, the company loses money importing batteries into China). Hybrids and electric cars are expected to take off more quickly in Europe, where population centers are closer together, and city driving is more prevalent. Therefore, the company has a stake in many start-stop batteries on that continent. Recycling used batteries makes sense here, so infrastructure for smelting and storage of old batteries is strategically placed in North America.
Understanding more local and individual needs is also highlighted in their Building Efficiency division, headed by Dave Myers. He gives the example of how a two-decade relationship with the University of Minnesota saves an average of 2.4 million dollars per year for the school by linking buildings together in using a tailored energy solution, all while utilizing some systems already in place. Speaking in New York, he also mentions a more high profile success story of trimming costs for the Empire State Building. Obviously, it is much more involved than turning a Johnson Controls thermostat down before going to bed at night. In fact, the company has teamed up with Microsoft and IBM, to name a few, in affecting the bottom line for its customers.
While much of Building Efficiency deals with energy provided by outside sources to its clients, Johnson Controls is now expanding its experience in Concentrated PV solar projects, which use emerging technologies to produce electricity with less water, while also requiring less surface area for the panels themselves when compared to more traditional solar production. As referenced, it also allows for energy to be produced onsite and is renewable in form, which are newer focuses for the division.
Together with the French company Solitec Group, Johnson Controls will now “build, operate and maintain utility-scale solar power plants,” in multiple locations globally, according to Thomas Content of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The first American project will be a 1-megawatt system at a mine in the Southwest. A 1-megawatt system is equivalent to a lightning strike or the output pulse of a “very large laser,” according to Wikipedia. According to Content, then, the most efficient areas which can utilize this solar technology exhibit powerful, concentrated sunlight that maximizes efficiency and impact of the panels. This makes a location in the U.S. Southwest useful, along with places that have similar conditions. In fact, this technology could be utilized on most continents.
Content also writes in a separate article that accolades have been abundant for Johnson Controls’ showcase expansion of its Glendale, Wisconsin headquarters (which features the “second-largest solar installation to date” in the state). Also intricate in the efficiency of the campus site, which groups together more green buildings than any other business in the nation, are newer aqua innovations such as collectors and recyclers of rainwater, and special toilets and urinals which, when coupled with other water-saving techniques, have caused supplied water needs to drop significantly. In fact, despite the spatial expansion of 100 percent and the addition of many structures on the campus, energy consumption has actually decreased by 21 percent. This is because of cutting-edge ideas, as well as ones employed by the Building Efficiency Division on a regular basis. Of course, the newer ideas put to use even trump the Division’s more common strategies, which are still anything but commonplace for anyone other than Wisconsin’s Johnson Controls.
The whole project not only produced long-term savings and a shining example to highlight the company’s cost-saving results to potential clients, but also earned the LEED award from the U.S. Green Building Council. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum, or the highest rating possible, was the designation for the headquarters, based on its exceptional energy and environmental benefits, according to Content.
Green can produce “green” if Johnson Controls continues its current direction. The experienced professional and support staff in Glendale, proudly mentioned in the NYSE forecast conducted by the company, is often multi-lingual, enhancing the company’s success. In a post-industrial society, there is a need for highly skilled, dynamic, well-rounded and creative employees, especially in the global marketplace. Clearly, Johnson Controls will continue to ride the green wave, which it helped create, and use innovation for the benefit of its stakeholders and the increasingly interconnected international community. Perhaps Content best sums up the steady success of the organization by quoting David Leiker, an analyst for Robert W. Baird & Co.: “Johnson Controls’ focus on green technologies in both the car battery and building segments—which together account for 60 percent of global energy consumption—should drive sales growth of 10 percent a year and earnings growth of 10 percent to 15 percent a year.” It seems this is a good bottom line for all involved, and it could be argued that everyone on the planet is involved.