Toyota's new power plant will use dairy manure to make clean electricity & hydrogen

Toyota Project Portal truck & Mirai
© Toyota

The forthcoming Tri-Gen facility is being called "the world's first megawatt-scale 100% renewable power and hydrogen generation station."

Although most electric vehicle manufacturers are 'fueling' their models with battery packs, Toyota is still hedging its bets on the future of electric mobility with continued forays into hydrogen fuel cells, and its latest venture looks to illustrate a solution for a major pain point in hydrogen-based transport. We've said it before, and we'll say it again, hydrogen is basically a fossil fuel because of how it's currently produced, and is essentially just a battery that is only as green as the energy source used to 'charge' it.

Toyota's planned Tri-Gen facility, which will be located in Long Beach, California, is intended to prove that 100% renewable, local hydrogen generation can be done at scale, and in this instance will use agricultural waste as the feedstock. The bio-waste, which will primarily come from dairy cattle manure for this project, produces methane, which is then fed into the fuel cells developed by FuelCell Energy and converted into clean electricity, along with hydrogen.

The Tri-Gen facility, once operational in 2020, is expected to generate about 2.35MW of electricity, as well as 1.2 tons of hydrogen. This will allow the company's Logistics Services operations at the Port of Long Beach to be run on 100% renewable energy, while also fueling all Toyota fuel cell vehicles coming through the Port. Toyota has already built "one of the largest hydrogen fueling stations in the world" at the facility, and the Tri-Gen power plant will presumably feed into that system.

"In most states, you have a conventional natural gas pipeline network that provides heat for your stove or furnace. The majority of natural gas comes from drilling for well gases. We’re trying to green up this process. One way is to find renewable sources, like from gases emitted from landfills, wastewater treatment plants and farm animals.” - Matt McClory, senior engineer with Toyota research and development, via USA Today

Although Tesla is getting a lot of press about its forthcoming electric semi truck, Toyota also has its hands in the mix, but its "Project Portal" class 8 truck is based on (wait for it...) hydrogen fuel cell technology. The company will be testing out these heavy duty short-haulers in and around the Port of Long Beach, in which case having its own hydrogen generation facility makes a lot of sense.

Toyota's new power plant will use dairy manure to make clean electricity & hydrogen
The forthcoming Tri-Gen facility is being called "the world's first megawatt-scale 100% renewable power and hydrogen generation station."

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