The sun will power more of Toyota Motor North America Inc.’s (Toyota’s) operations thanks to a new power purchase agreement with Savion. Toyota has agreed to offtake 100-megawatts (MW) of the electricity generated as part of renewable energy company Savion’s Martin County Solar Project through a virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA).
The project is converting the former Martiki Coal Mine, a brownfield site in Martin County, on the border of Kentucky and West Virginia, into a new, clean solar photovoltaic energy facility.
The Road from Coal to Solar
Once an active coal mine on the top of a mountain that closed in the 1990s, the Martiki site has clear access to light from the sun, making it an ideal location for reclamation and the installation of solar photovoltaic panels for electricity generation.
Construction on the project is anticipated to begin in mid-2023 and commercial operation is expected in 2024.
“The Martin County Solar Project in Kentucky is really special as an example of how renewable energy VPPAs can bring new opportunities to former coal and energy communities and will help Toyota achieve our goal of increasing purchased renewable electricity to 45% or more of our total purchased electricity by 2025,” said David Absher, senior manager of environmental sustainability at Toyota Motor North America.
Absher went on to add: “It is important that renewable power is more available to large-scale U.S. energy buyers, and converting brownfields like this offers a path forward for former energy communities to take advantage of the infrastructure they already have with transmission lines while providing clean energy to the grid.”
The 100 MW that Toyota will offtake from the project will be used primarily to help reduce the company’s carbon footprint in North America, supplementing the "model it has created of environmental stewardship in Kentucky," the state with Toyota’s largest vehicle manufacturing plant in the world. The move is in-line with the company’s plans to make all its operations in North America carbon neutral by 2035.
Savion is developing the Martin County Solar Project with the support of local development partner Edelen Renewables. With dedicated support from state officials and local leadership, the project’s development phase continues to advance. The overall project, once completed, is expected to be one of the largest solar energy generation facilities operating in Kentucky.
“We are thankful for the local community, community officials, state officials, and the many local professionals that have supported this project,” said Kevin Butt, regional environmental sustainability director at Toyota Motor North America.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky is the largest Toyota manufacturing facility in the world, employing more than 8,000 team members and producing up to 550,000 vehicles a year.
While this facility focuses on cars (Avalon, Avalon Hybrid, Camry, Camry Hybrid, and Lexus ES 350), it showcases Toyota's focus on sustainability with its automotive operations and Work Truck will provide updates should the move be done to support any of their truck production facilities.
In April 2023, Toyota announced that its manufacturing facility in Alabama is also making changes to its power source, with more than 70% of the sites power to come from the sun. The Alabama plant supplies engines for Toyota vehicles such as the Tundra, Corolla Cross, and Sienna.