Environment

The Toyota Assembly Plant in Georgetown is nearing completion on a system that will power part of the plant with gas from a nearby landfill.

The project uses gas from a landfill about seven miles away from the plant. Landfill gas is about half methane, which is also the primary component of natural gas. These gases are created when garbage ferments in landfills. Toyota has built a generating station at the landfill, and is in the process of running an underground electricity line to the plant.

Here’s how Toyota described the process in an infographic:

Toyota Isometric Infographic-3Erica Peterson | wfpl.org

Chief Environmental Officer Kevin Butt said Toyota began considering harnessing the landfill gas for both environmental and financial reasons.

“It’s kind of a twofold look at how do we reduce our footprint, but at the same time steady our cost of future energy?” he said.

The landfill was also flaring its gas, or burning it off.

“That doesn’t make a lot of sense because that’s adding greenhouse gas to the environment,” Butt said. “We can harness that and we can do some great things by stopping that, and at the same time generating some electricity for us.”

He estimates that by using the landfill gas to generate electricity, it will reduce the emissions from the landfill by 90 percent.

At first, the landfill is expected to produce about one megawatt of electricity, Butt said. That’s enough to make 10,000 cars a year, or two percent of the half-million the plant usually produces annually.

But the landfill is new, and over time, it will produce more methane. Butt said eventually, it could be producing as much as seven megawatts a year. And he said the company will see a fairly quick turnaround on its investment.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Assignment Editor.