Most visitors to the busy Ikea store in Tempe have no idea what is taking place on the roof.

The roof of that store features a 75,000-square-foot solar array consisting of 2,600 panels capable of generating close to 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. The panels prevent the equivalent of 760 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted annually, equal to the emissions of 133 cars or 84 homes.

Ikea’s solar array is among three Tempe projects honored at the 2011 Environmental Excellence Awards presented by Valley Forward Association.

The Ikea solar array received the Crescordia Award, the top honor, in the private-sector environmental technologies category. The shopping and entertainment hub Tempe Marketplace received an award of merit in the category of livable communities: adaptive reuse, while Maple-Ash Irrigation Standpipes Project earned an award of merit in the art in public places category.

The solar array on the Tempe Ikea store was that company’s third such project when it was installed last year. There are 12 Ikea stores nationwide using solar power.

“It started with our store in Pittsburgh in 2000,” Ikea Tempe spokeswoman Jackie Terry said. “We’ve started this trend across the country. Many stores are starting to get solar arrays on the roof.”

Terry said the solar array has produced 922,615 kilowatt-hours of electricity since it was installed.

In addition to the solar panels, the store has other environmentally friendly features.

Ikea used energy-efficient air-conditioning and lights, non-polluting HVAC units, and water-conserving bathroom features. The Tempe store also has three recycling centers where residents can drop off non-fluorescent light bulbs, plastic bottles, plastic bags and aluminum cans.

“We work with the city on that,” Terry said. “We’re the south Tempe hub for residents to bring items to be recycled.”

Tempe Marketplace was recognized for Vestar Development Co.’s extensive efforts in cleaning up the land upon which the shopping center was built.

The 130-acre site contained a collection of landfills, junkyards and even a foundry. In cleaning up the site, construction crews found debris from a renovation of nearby Sun Devil Stadium, old water tanks and vehicles. They removed tons of toxic soil and had to employ a technique called deep dynamic compaction (dropping a 29-ton weight from a height of 100 feet to compact the earth in the landfill areas) just to make the ground suitable to build upon.

The project was the largest cleanup of a brownfield site in Arizona history.

The Maple-Ash Irrigation Standpipes Project came about as residents of the 340-household Maple-Ash Neighborhood Association sought to beautify sites that were being plagued by trash and graffiti.

The themes for decorating the standpipes were chosen by residents working with artist Nina Solomon. The standpipes were decorated with themes that included the history of flood irrigation, the large trees and healthy foliage enabled by that irrigation and selected architectural details of the neighborhoods.

The Tempe projects honored are examples of the kind of projects that Valley Forward wants to encourage more of in the area.

“I think that green building is now more the expectation than the exception,” Valley Forward President Diane Brossart said. “It’s no longer a trend or a fad. It’s here to stay – it’s real and it’s happening around the Valley.”