GM has scored another first at its Allen County facility.
The truck assembly plant that was the first in the U.S. to be officially landfill-free is now the first automotive plant in North America to operate cogeneration equipment that converts landfill gas into electricity.
General Motors management and local elected officials cut the ribbon on the $11 million project Wednesday. Installation of four energy-generating engines began in November.
Mike Glinski, plant manager, said the company’s investment in the equipment is an outstanding environmental and business achievement.
The engines have been running at full speed for one week, providing 28 percent of the plant’s electricity.
Projections call for GM to save $3.5 million a year in energy costs and prevent the annual release of 39,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide – roughly equal to the emissions of 8,126 passenger vehicles.
Carbon dioxide emissions are widely considered a contributor to climate change.
Republic Services, a national waste and recycling services provider, has 70 cogeneration sites in the U.S., including 11 in the northern Indiana/Michigan area, said Stephanie Goodman, environmental manager.
What’s unique about the local site is that GM bought and operates the equipment, she said. Some other factories use electricity generated by landfill gases, but the power comes from a utility, which owns and operates the engines.
The Fort Wayne region’s electrical demand is projected to increase by 20 percent over the next 20 years. By becoming more energy-independent, GM is freeing up power that United REMC can divert to other customers.
If the automaker didn’t reduce its reliance on the utility, United REMC would probably need to invest in new infrastructure – spending that could drive up residential electricity rates, a GM spokeswoman said previously.
GM replaced the 8-inch, 9-mile pipe that connects the assembly plant to the Smith Road landfill with a 12-inch-diameter pipe to more than double the amount of landfill gas flowing to the plant. The closed-loop system keeps the unpleasant odor of methane gas contained.
The Detroit automaker’s energy-saving efforts have included replacing old interior and exterior lighting with energy-efficient options and signing up 18 months ago for the Power Moves program offered by United REMC and Wabash Valley Power Association.
United REMC officials on Wednesday presented Glinski with a $300,000 rebate check that reflected the savings from participating in Power Moves.
The overall goal of the program, which is also open to homeowners, is to help consumers save energy. Utility companies can also wait longer before investing in new power plants.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry described GM as a leader on environmental issues.
This really speaks volumes about you as a company, he said.