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BUFFALO, W.Va. — West Virginia’s largest solar panel project to date will be completed by March 2021 at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant in Buffalo, the company announced this week.

“Toyota’s engine and transmission plant in Buffalo, West Virginia, will be the largest solar array in the state,” said Jacob Plasters, Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia (TMMWV) senior engineering manager. “We are very excited to bring this environmental project to West Virginia.”

Plasters said the $4.9 million investment will reduce CO2 emissions at the plant by 1,822 metric tons annually.

“The array will span 6 acres and generate 2.6 megawatts of solar-generated energy,” he said. “This is part of the company’s strategic goals to reduce its reliance on outside energy needed for operations.”

Established in 1996, TMMWV manufactures nearly 1 million engines and transmissions for the Toyota Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, RAV4 and Lexus ES and RX350. In June, TMMWV became the first Toyota facility in North America to begin producing hybrid transaxles, which are built for the Highlander and Sienna.

“To achieve our goals it will take a combination of some renewables and changes in process,” Plasters said.

Some of the changes include smart building technologies that will allow the plant to control and optimize lighting, HVAC and other systems used in the facility, according to Plasters.

“The change to LED lighting produced a large reduction in daily costs and are all part of the steps to achieve our lofty goals by 2050,” he said.

Plasters said the new solar arrays join similar projects at Toyota plants in Texas and Mississippi, all of which support the company’s global Environmental Challenge 2050 to eliminate all carbon emissions from manufacturing by the middle of the century.

“Toyota Motor Corp. issued the challenge as a set of six goals with a target of achieving beyond zero environmental impact,” he said.

The West Virginia project is one of three Toyota announced. The company says it’s adding 10.8 acres of new solar arrays across the company’s plants in West Virginia, Alabama and Missouri.

In Alabama, the Huntsville engine plant’s 3.3-acre solar array will be the largest constructed to date in Madison County. The $2.7 million investment will generate 1.6 megawatts of solar-generated energy and reduce CO2 emissions at the plant by 1,732 metric tons annually. The project is expected to be complete by December.

In Missouri, the solar array at Toyota’s unit plant in Troy will span 1.5 acres and generate 0.75 megawatts of solar-generated energy. The project will be the largest solar array in Lincoln County.

The $1.7 million investment will reduce CO2 emissions at the plant by 750 metric tons annually. The project is expected to be complete in January 2021.

Toyota’s overall $9.3 million solar investment at the three plants will generate 4.95 megawatts of energy and reduce CO2 emissions at the plants by 4,304 metric tons annually, officials said. The solar arrays will offset 6,480,000 kWh energy, which is the equivalent of powering nearly 800 homes per year.

“Toyota continuously looks for new ways to reduce water usage, recycle materials and conserve energy, and we are proud to add solar panels to our lineup of best practices,” said Kevin Bell, TMNA energy manager. “We are committed to setting an example of sustainability to show how a company can significantly reduce the environmental impact of its operations.”

Toyota is one of the top 20 corporate users of installed onsite solar capacity in the U.S., according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

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