Toyota Mississippi powers up solar project


BLUE SPRINGS – As the automaker’s flagship facility for environmental responsibility in North America, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi reached another benchmark on Earth Day.

On Monday, officials powered up the plant’s solar panel project, which provides 50 kilowatts of peak energy – enough to power seven homes.

It’s the fourth-largest solar project in the state, but it is Toyota’s only large-scale solar array installed at the company’s 17 facilities in North America.

“This project is another milestone on our path toward our vision and commitment to the environment,” said Doug Formby, TMMMS’ vice president of administration. “This and other activities, both high-tech and low-tech, allows us to plan and structure our operations to be more efficient, cleaner and leaner under our long-term view of sustainable growth.”

Toyota Mississippi is the Japanese automaker’s model sustainability plant in North America, one of only four in the world.

The designation covers four areas – performance based on minimizing its impact on the environment, biodiversity, renewable energy use and community and team member education.

The solar panel array – 358 feet long and comprised of 198 panels – can be expanded, said Kevin Butt, general manager and chief environmental officer for Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America.

He also said other plants can adapt and add solar panels or other renewable energy sources like wind.

And while the solar array produces only a fraction of the energy needed to power TMMMS, Butt said such efforts are worthwhile.

“Toyota North America is trying to show leadership across the continent. … small parts make a big difference,” he said.

Also Monday, Toyota Mississippi was honored – along with the company’s other 13 North American manufacturing plants – with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Partner of the Year = Sustained Excellence Award.

It’s the ninth consecutive year Toyota has won the award, the most of any automaker that assembles vehicles in North America.

Formby noted that during the past 11 years, energy use at Toyota’s North American facilities has been reduced by 21 percent per vehicle – enough energy to power 28,000 average households. The company also has saved more than $330 million during that span.

“Not only does it have a significant impact on our bottom line, but it demonstrates our commitment to the environment and ‘respect for the planet.” Formby said.

TMMMS President Masafumi Hamaguchi praised the work ethic and focus of plant employees and said their commitment would not waver.

“They have done an outstanding job in helping Toyota Mississippi grow in harmony with the environment, and their dedication to quality and safety is unmatched,” he said.

“Let’s respect our planet,” he added. “It’s the only one we have.”

Also, plant officials noted Boy Scouts from Union County would work with TMMMS team members to build and install 22 wood duck boxes on about 700 acres at the plant site.

Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal