Chew On This: Cows Help Power BMW Plant in South Africa

Credit: BMW Group

When BMW Group started production on the third-generation BMW X3 this summer, the company had some additional help in the process: approximately 25,000 cows in Gauteng Province, South Africa. Manure from a local organic cattle farm gets turned into biogas to power BMW’s Rosslyn Plant north of Pretoria.

BMW Group first announced a 10-year agreement with Bio2Watt in October 2015 to produce 25% to 30% of the electricity needed for the Rosslyn Plant from renewable sources. Bio2Watt’s biogas plant in Bronkhorstspruit, east of Pretoria, processes about 40,000 tons of cow manure and 20,000 tons of mixed organic waste every year using anaerobic digesters, BMW said at the time.

Prior to the agreement, BMW’s Rosslyn Plant relied on electricity that came entirely from coal-burning power plants in order to make 300 vehicles there daily. Obtaining renewable energy in the area was a challenge because solar panels weren’t efficient enough and the site is too far from the coast for wind power to be viable, Tim Abbott, the CEO of BMW Group South Africa, told the UN’s Climate Action. Given all the agriculture active in the region, a biomass power plant made more sense.

Currently the biogas plant is delivering on its promise, and powers 30% of the Rosslyn Plant’s electricity needs, according to Climate Action. BMW Group’s goal is to meet 100% of its energy needs from renewable sources in the coming years. Other efforts include a gas-to-energy project at the German automaker’s plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, wind turbines at a plant in Leipzig, Germany, and a 3-megawatt solar array on the rooftops of the MINI production plant in Oxford, UK.

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