Toyota's manufacturing plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, recently announced that it will begin generating electricity from methane, a byproduct of trash decomposition at a nearby landfill.

"We will generate 1 megawatt (1 million watts) per hour at the site," said Dave Absher, Toyota's environmental strategies manager. "That's enough annual energy generation to produce approximately 10,000 vehicles. The system can eventually be scaled up to 10 megawatts per hour."

The project is a collaboration between the Georgetown manufacturing plant and the Central Kentucky Landfill, which is owned and operated by Waste Services of the Bluegrass. Landfills are required to monitor methane levels and report these levels to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Capturing and burning methane has been determined by the EPA to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The project began in 2010 when the two companies met to discuss the potential. Last fall, Waste Services began installing a methane collection system, and Toyota began installing a generator at the site. An underground electric transmission line runs from the landfill approximately 6.5 miles to deliver electricity to the plant.

Toyota's global headquarters recently announced its intent to virtually eliminate carbon-dioxide emissions from its vehicles and manufacturing plants by 2050. The launch of the Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the release of fuel cell patents to other automakers and the development of manufacturing technologies that use hydrogen as a power source are specific initiatives mentioned within the plan. Alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and locally produced renewable energy also will be required to achieve the goal.

"The landfill gas generator represents the kind of thinking that our company is asking us to do to reduce our carbon footprint over the next 35 years," said Kevin Butt, Toyota's general manager for environment strategies. "It's a small step, but a significant one. These types of changes to our manufacturing operations coupled with other global initiatives will help us reach this very aggressive goal."

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