Toyota’s Innovative Tri-gen Plant: Clean Energy Solutions for the Port
Located near the entrance of Toyota’s main port in Long Beach, California, an intricately woven metal structure catches the eye. From the outside, it resembles an old-school oil refinery. However, looks can be deceiving. This unique facility, owned by FuelCell Energy Inc., produces clean energy in the form of hydrogen, electricity, and water. Using a naturally occurring byproduct of rotting waste, this first-of-a-kind plant will aid Toyota’s port operations for the next two decades.
The Tri-gen Plant
The Tri-gen plant is a small-scale facility that transforms biogas, methane polluted with contaminants, into usable resources. It generates up to 2.3 megawatts of electricity, 1,200 kg of hydrogen, and 1,400 gallons of water every day. These products will play key roles in Toyota’s port operations.
Electricity for Operations
The electricity produced by the Tri-gen plant will power various operations at Toyota Logistics Services in Long Beach. This includes preparing imported vehicles for distribution in the U.S., adding ordered accessories, and charging battery electric vehicles (BEVs) arriving from Japan.
Hydrogen Fuel for Vehicles
The plant also pressurizes hydrogen to fuel Toyota’s fuel cell vehicles, such as the Mirai. Additionally, it provides fuel for fuel cell-powered semis operating at the port. This sustainable hydrogen source helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and supports Toyota’s commitment to clean transportation.
Water for Vehicle Washing
The Tri-gen plant produces a significant amount of usable water. This water is utilized to wash off-loaded vehicles as they are prepared for distribution. By using this water source, Toyota reduces water consumption and promotes sustainable practices.
A Wondrous Opportunity
According to Mark Yamauchi, sustainability manager for Toyota Motor North America, the Tri-gen project is a result of Toyota’s long-term vision and commitment to carbon reduction. Toyota saw the potential of FuelCell Energy’s technologies after their successful collaboration on a federally subsidized pilot project. Yamauchi expresses Toyota’s excitement about leveraging the three value streams of renewable electricity, renewable hydrogen, and water without any capital investment from Toyota.
A Zero-Emission Fueling Center
Paul Fukumoto, director of technology and product solutions with FuelCell Energy, highlights the environmental benefits of the Tri-gen plant. This facility ensures zero emissions by producing low carbon electricity and hydrogen through renewable means. With virtually no nitrogen oxide emissions, it significantly reduces air pollution and contributes to cleaner air quality.
Scalability and Financial Benefits
The success and scalability of the Tri-gen plant in Long Beach have prompted Toyota to explore similar technology for larger applications at its North American manufacturing operations. This expansion has the potential to significantly reduce Toyota’s carbon footprint and serve as a hedge against inflation. Additionally, the fixed price for power from the Tri-gen plant provides a financial advantage, costing Toyota approximately half of what they would pay Southern California Edison over the 20-year contract.