Energy Audits Pinpoint Ways to Save

Talk about ROI! Make a no-cost energy audit your plant’s next investment.

By Mike Pehanich, Plant Operations Editor

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Energy savings in the Sunshine State

Florida’s horrendous 2004 hurricane season put the spotlight on one of the state’s top energy priorities: identifying “interruptible customers,” that is, those customers that can be disconnected during capacity shortages without suffering serious consequences.

“Obviously, food processors and cold storage operators need energy nearly all the time,” says Jennings of TECO Energy. Jennings’ industrial customers include the Cargill and Florida’s Natural juice operations, Smithfield Foods and an assortment of seafood processors and cold storage providers.

In preparation for the storms, some companies installed backup generators -- a measure encouraged by Florida energy providers to ease load demand during blistering summer days as well as natural disasters. TECO’s Standby Generator Program gives monthly dollar-per-kilowatt credits to companies that install generators large enough to sustain plant operations during emergencies and agree to emergency interruption of normal electrical service.

TECO energy audits are funded through a “conservation clause” that calls for a portion of energy billing to be set aside for conservation measures.

Audited customers are informed of varying time-of-use rates, which encourage operation during off-peak hours. Companies that do not qualify for TECO programs are often referred to federal Dept. of Energy programs where they may still find financial advantage in energy upgrades.

Processors also have incentives to upgrade to more energy-efficient equipment. Programs include rebates for retrofitting to fluorescent lighting and fixtures that are more energy efficient than existing lighting and dollar-per-ton rebates for air-conditioning units with high energy-efficiency ratings. Per-watt rebates applied to other plant equipment can also offset some of the cost of retrofitting.

Upgrades without upfront capital

Minnesota customers have upgraded equipment and facilities with no upfront capital and a guaranteed positive cash flow resulting from energy savings.

The Shared Savings program offered by Alliant Energy and Interstate Power & Light has reduced energy needs and costs and even reduced labor requirements and improved productivity for some customers capitalizing on the plan. The program makes not just a claim but a guarantee that savings in lower energy bills will pay for capital improvements aimed at more efficient energy usage.

Alliant Energy (, which serves customers in portions of Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, has a good reason to assist clients with the financing of energy-efficient capital upgrades. It’s more cost-effective for the utility to save generation than to build new power plants and to upgrade infrastructure. Alliant recognizes that payback on energy-efficiency projects may not be as competitive as other investments, so it has removed the risk portion of the equation by guaranteeing plus-side cash flow based on energy savings.

The program begins with a no-cost audit from an Alliant Energy-Interstate Power & Light account manager who analyzes the plant, calculates energy savings and presents an improvement plan. Energy savings and quantifiable non-energy savings (usually resulting from environmental and safety measures) pay for the project. The plan requires zero upfront cost and a five-year repayment in monthly bill installments. Customers can relieve capital constraints by listing the payment as an operating cost.

Start saving today

No-cost and low-cost energy audits are great ways to jumpstart your energy-efficiency efforts and drop dollars – often quickly – to the bottom line.

Check with local utility providers on available audits. Utility company audits may vary in their range and degree of sophistication. Some may focus almost entirely on general facilities costs such as lighting, heating and air-conditioning. But others can make useful suggestions about processing equipment and other systems with less obvious potential for energy savings.

Check web sites for state and federal programs offering energy counsel, economic incentives and energy audits. And don’t forget universities offering comprehensive energy audits, particularly those involved in the federal Industrial Assessment Centers program listed earlier in this article. Contacts at these offices may be able to direct you to specialists in your own area as well.

Grimmway Farms saves more than $300,000 a year

There’s expense…and then there’s expense.

Capital expense was the primary concern when Grimmway Farms designed the refrigeration system for its Mountain View plant in Bakersfield, Calif. The design called for small pipe to save on the cost of construction.

But that expense seemed penny wise and pound foolish when the company broke down its operational expenses several years later.

Results of Grimmway Farms’
Mountain View upgrade

Annual Facility Consumption: 9,400,800 kWh
Project Cost: $793,000
Annual Electricity Savings: 3,491,085 kWh
Annual Cost Savings: $339,683
Peak Demand Savings: 436 kW
SPC Incentive: $300,000

Data provided by Pacific Gas & Electric
“Drink a soft drink with a cocktail straw, and see how hard it is. Now try using a bigger straw, one of those 3/8 inchers they give you with the jumbo drinks,” suggests Ron Black, general manager of engineering and construction for Grimmway Farms, the largest shipper of carrots in California. “By increasing the pipe size on our refrigeration system, we made it easier to draw the liquid through. And the compressors don’t have to work as hard. That saves energy.”
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