NASHVILLE -- Nissan plans to expand a green energy program that provides wind power and landfill gas to help run its Aguascalientes, Mexico, assembly plant.
The program, which for a year has used a wind farm in southern Mexico and methane from the Aguascalientes city dump, has cut the plant's utility costs by between 10 and 13 percent, said Marco Antonio Rivera, senior manager for energy and environment at Nissan Mexico.
Nissan's renewable energy program supplies half of the Aguascalientes plant's power. The automaker plans to expand the program to its assembly plant in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and to a second Aguascalientes plant that is to open this year, Rivera says.
"We've had good success with renewable energy, and it has the potential to do more," he says.
Nissan's program requires it to contract for 75 percent of the output of Mexico's largest wind farm, consisting of 35 large wind turbines in Oaxaca state, some 600 miles away. The effort replaces about 5.3 million gallons of fuel oil.
But the wind dies to stillness in Oaxaca each year from June through September, Rivera says, leaving Nissan potentially without 45 percent of its energy needs for four months.
For those months, Nissan builds up power credits that allow it to be supplied through Mexico's centralized national utility grid.
Nissan also hopes to get 8 to 9 percent of its power from generators that run on methane from the Aguascalientes city landfill. Because of some leakage and inefficiency in the system, Nissan is getting only about 5 percent. But Rivera believes the system can yield more.
He said Nissan also is investigating the potential of local hydroelectric power.
"We are looking at other renewable sources," Rivera says. "There is a challenge to balancing the mix of sources that are necessary to do this. There are many variables that are impossible to control, like the wind."