FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The General Motors truck assembly plant in Allen County was the first of its kind in North America to use methane gas produced by landfills to generate electricity.
After two years of construction, the Co-Generation facility because fully operational May 29. GM officials and area politicians cut the ceremonial ribbon Wednesday.
Here’s how it works. When waste decomposes at a landfill, it creates methane gas. The gas created at the National Serv-All landfill, owned by Republic Services, in Fort Wayne is routed through eight miles of pipe to Fort Wayne Assembly.
The gas then goes through four 20-cylinder combustible engines that have generators on them to produce electricity. That process now supplies the plant with 28 percent of its electricity, which will save it around $3.5 million a year in energy costs.
Since coming online about a week ago, it’s already generated more than 2,000 mega watts of electricity.
“It’s a big deal for Fort Wayne Assembly. We want to make sure we do these kinds of things for environmental stewardship and for the benefit of the plant,” David Shenefield, the site utility manager for Fort Wayne Assembly, said.
Toro Energy expanded an already existing pipe between the plant and the landfill. The Assembly first started burning landfill gas in a boiler in 2002. The boiler still uses some of the methane gas, but most of it now goes to the engines to be made into electricity.
“We’re able to reuse and have a renewable source right here in Fort Wayne, which is definitely a positive for the environment,” Stephanie Goodman, the environmental manager for Republic Services, said.
Republic Services is required to collect and burn the methane gas as part of greenhouse gas regulations. Now it can send it to GM to be reused instead of burning it off.
“Fort Wayne is one of 70 landfill gas-to-energy sites nationwide for Republic Services. The amount of energy produced company-wide is enough to fuel 400,000 homes,” Goodman said.
Fort Wayne mayor Tom Henry called the project “economic development at its finest.”
“This is not only good for the environment, but it also makes a tremendous statement about how Fort Wayne wants to be at the forefront of new technology and applications,” Henry said. “Potential employers will realize Fort Wayne is trying to stay on top of all the new applications that are available and we’re very proud of that.”
Also Wednesday, the General Motors Foundation handed out $100,000 in Plant City Grants to eleven nonprofits. The foundation was created in 1976 and helps a variety of charities and organizations. The foundation’s money comes solely from GM and focuses on supporting education, health and human services, environment and energy and community development initiatives.
The Burmese Advocacy Center: $2,500
Community Transportation Network: $2,500
The Carriage House: $2,500
YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne: $4,000
Fort Wayne Healthy Cities Veteran’s Stand Down: $4,000
Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana: $5,000
Fort Wayne Urban League: $5,000
Science Central: $6,500
Little River Wetlands Project: $8,000
The Embassy Theatre Foundation: $10,000
United Way of Allen County: $50,000
United REMC also gave Fort Wayne Assembly $300,000 in a rebate for participating in the power company’s Power Moves program. Last March the plant started replacing old lamps inside and outside the plant with more energy-efficient lights. In about a year, the Assembly’s savings added up to that rebate amount.