Speaking at the July opening of Lilly’s new solar panel farm in Ireland, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheál Martin described it as a “first class project”, one which represents the sort of “dramatic change” that is needed across Europe today. The 16-acre site was developed with renewable energy experts Enerpower and is the largest of its kind in Ireland. But as Lilly chairman and CEO Dave Ricks commented, the solar farm at our Kinsale manufacturing site represents one element of Lilly’s push for carbon neutrality by 2030.

Ambitious targets to help make life better

Lilly’s bread-and-butter work is discovering medicines and developing treatments that improve people’s lives. It makes no sense to undermine that positive impact by negatively impacting the environment, so Lilly is also aiming to reach ambitious environmental, social and governance goals (ESGs).

Making medicines requires the use of valuable resources, including energy, water and raw materials. So, in addition to carbon neutrality in all our operations by 2030, we’re committed to reducing waste and improving water security across the life cycles of our products and our supply chain.

The road to sustainability is not a straightforward one. It will require a lot of creative initiatives, big and small, local and international in scale. The Kinsale solar farm is a flagship project indicative of the step-by-step approach – “the most spectacular evidence of that commitment,” as described by Todd Winge, Vice President and General Manager of Lilly Kinsale.

Local impact

The solar panel farm now helps power a significant proportion of the Irish Lilly manufacturing campus. 12,500 individual solar panels, all linked together, stretch across three fields and allow Lilly to reduce the use of electricity from carbon sources by almost 6 gigawatt hours (GWh) per year. This, the largest solar farm in the country, translates to an annual carbon footprint reduction of 2,350 tonnes.

The staff who live and work in and around the Kinsale site take great pride in the fact that, despite having grown tremendously in size over the past 40 years, it remains sensitive to the local surroundings and community. The solar project is no different. Local wildlife has not been disturbed, sheep can be seen roaming around among the panels, and plans are underway to add beehives in the fields, aimed at enhancing biodiversity in the area.

Projects such as this demonstrate the possibilities of effective local investment. Small but meaningful contributions can increase the production of clean energy without taking resources from the local community.

A model for change

Our purpose is to make life better. Our employees and our society now demand that this mission very clearly includes protecting and preserving the world we live in. We all must do our part to embody sustainability and reduce, replace and offset where we can. That’s why we set out our ESG goals and invest in projects like the solar farm.

As we look to our global leaders to advance climate commitments at COP26, companies across all sectors must take actions such as these to increase their energy efficiency. It is our hope that the Kinsale solar farm will inspire others to make similar, meaningful investments. In fact one of our next projects is a large solar development in Strasbourg, France, that aims to replicate Kinsale’s success.