What Processors are Doing to Improve Energy Management

Energy management suddenly has taken on grave importance. Read what Tyson, ConAgra, Publix and other processors are doing to reduce consumption and find altneratives.

By Mike Pehanich, Plant Operations Editor

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The company altered the system and the facility, implementing 10 major energy-saving measures. Installing a computer-control system and new 250-hp economized screw compressor that replaced the five former compressors netted 13 percent savings. Installing a fast-acting freezer door from Rite-Hite, Milwaukee, between freezer and cooler and adding variable frequency drives for the evaporator fan in the cooler contributed to a further 23 percent reduction in this area of the operation. Adding a variable frequency drive to the new compressor and VFDs to the six evaporators added a combined 39 percent saving. Lighting improvements saved an additional 12 percent.

The total savings were dramatic. Truitt Bros. garnered $70,900 in confirmed energy savings while reducing its overall energy use 59 percent – a reduction of 1,638,000 kilowatt hours per year! The company also wrought an overall improvement in conditions and operations at the plant by improving employee space comfort levels, reducing wear on compressors, fans and other parts, and creating a quieter working environment.

Snack maker goes solar

The trend toward alternative fuels has not been limited to the use of organic waste. An Oregon snack maker, for example, looked to the sun this year to curb energy costs, and, so far, the effort has been rewarding.

Kettle Foods, Salem, Ore., installed a 114-kw solar electric system on the plant and headquarters roofs in September of 2003. Use of this renewable energy source has saved the company $8,400 annually and promises CO2 emission reductions of 2,500 tons over the life of the system.

Kettle's facilities manager earlier refused an offer to buy waste heat from a neighboring printing plant, but the offer prompted company officials to look at alternative energy options. The company already had targeted energy conservation and reduction as a corporate objective. Incentives and tax credits promised an acceptable rate of return. The only major plant modification involved adding wood to the roof to support the solar panels. The system would require minimal maintenance.

The solar system will supply only 2 percent of the overall energy used at the plant and office building. But the energy is free, clean and renewable. Furthermore, the system has brought the company highly favorable publicity, which is expected to have positive marketing value and generate good will among consumers of its "all-natural" products.

Most importantly, perhaps, it will open minds to further consideration of solar and other alternative energy sources as the food industry attempts to enhance its energy consciousness.

Portland's energy trailblazers

The Northwest Food Processors Assn., based in Portland, Ore., took a major step for the entire American food industry when it entered into a contract with the Oregon Dept. of Energy to assess the energy needs and efficiency of its members. The project, which received funding from the U.S. Dept. of Energy, also charged the association with creating an energy information portal addressing industry energy needs and to "develop a transferable fact-finding and service model for other industry associations."

NWFPA's aggressive performance and success to date enhance prospects for further conservation and greater use of renewable energy resources.

Its partners include the California League of Food Processors, the energy offices of Northwest states (California, Oregon, Idaho and Washington), the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, the U.S. Dept. of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The project targets the improvement of energy and water use of food processors throughout the West. A primary aim is to reduce energy consumption and reduce emissions.

Pam Barrow, director of energy for NWFPA, tells food processors some of the easiest energy savings may be corrected by attending to fundamental maintenance issues. Among the quick-fix items, she identifies:


    • Compressed air leaks.

    • Inefficient compressed air systems.

    • Energy savings of up to 80 percent by switching to more efficient and properly sized motors.

    • Regulating motor operation with variable frequency drives (VFDs).

    • Switching to VFDs on transfer of hot and chilled water for process systems.

    • Adding VFDs to air compressors ("Energy may comprise up to 76 percent of the life cycle cost of an air compressor.").

  • Using effective software-driven energy programs to monitor energy use and purchase.




Green power can make bottom-line sense.

Businesses have good reason to explore possibilities of using energy provided by renewable energy sources such as hydropower, geothermal, solar, wind and various organic waste or by-products from your food operations. As technologies become increasingly sophisticated, alternate energy sources become more affordable. Furthermore, a growing number of incentive programs are making "green" more attractive.

As much as half of the electrical customers in the country may have electrical supply options that include green energy choices. Investigate the status of State Electric Industry Restructuring Activity through the Energy Information Administration to find your state's status regarding alternate energy supply and competition. Look also into the purchase of green energy certificates.


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