Food Processing Awards Hormel Foods/Progressive Processing 2012 Green Plant of the Year

Being able to produce high-quality products in a sustainable and energy-efficient facility garnered Hormel's Progressive Processing facility in Dubuque, Iowa our third annual prize.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

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Even so, Ettinger acknowledges there needs to be more progress. "While we did not meet our aggressive [energy reduction] goal, the last five years have given us additional knowledge about reducing energy usage. We will be establishing a new goal from 2012 to 2020 that reflects this insight."

Progressive Processing is not the only Hormel Foods facility to get LEED certification. This year, the corporate headquarters' north addition, in Austin, Minn., also received LEED gold certification.

"For most of the energy and water consumed in our facility, there is no baseline published in a standard," Sayles continued. "You can't look in a book to find a design standard that will let us say, ‘Our retort is 15 percent more efficient, so we can get the LEED points for that improvement.'" It's unlikely there will ever be such standards for retorts, fillers and other specialized machinery and process equipment, especially since many are customized models.

"Nate Moriarty [senior staff engineer] played an important role in the documentation of the LEED credits and with the commissioning of the facility, and Mark Willrodt [senior staff engineer] designed the lighting and lighting controls for the project that allowed us to achieve points for minimizing electrical usage," Sayles said.

"It would be nice if LEED had a modified rating system for manufacturing plants the way it does for office buildings or schools," added Ron Rens, Gleeson's executive vice president. "But we look at it this way: The cost of energy isn't likely to come down. Whatever you can do to reduce your energy use is just good business, whether or not you get a LEED point for it."

In the construction phase, 36 percent of construction materials had recycled content. Construction waste was separated into dumpsters for recycling scrap wood, steel, concrete and paper-based materials. More than 85 percent of the construction waste was recycled.

The plant uses at least 25 percent less water than a comparable plant built to meet current building codes and standards. "Every effort was made to not use water if possible, capture water for reuse, and to utilize closed loop processes," Sayles said.

All three methods are utilized in the retort system. Water in the retorts is saved and reused in the next cycle, excess water that is removed from the retorts is captured for use in the plant's gray water system, and closed-loop cooling is used to cool the retorts at the end of the cook. The heat is recovered from the closed loop for heating the potable water supply; thus, water is not evaporated in a cooling tower to reject this heat to the atmosphere, as might be the case in other closed loop processes.

A "gray water" system replaces 100 percent of the water used to flush toilets, versus the typical 20-30 percent for which LEED awards credits in the typical commercial/office application.
In other plants, even the most efficient compressed air systems at least lose energy through the heat they generate. But this plant captures the waste heat for heating potable water and to regenerate the desiccant air dryers with almost no energy not utilized.

Fresh air is supplied to indoor spaces with minimal energy costs via the use of energy-recovery ventilators, which preheat or pre-cool (depending on the time of year) the air supplied into the building.

A novel heat recovery system has recovered enough heat energy to heat more than 80 percent of the hot water used in the facility. It also provides 100 percent of the energy needed to heat the office and employee welfare spaces in the facility, as well as a few other miscellaneous process related requirements, such as the underfloor freeze protection system under the freezer and the makeup water to the retorts.

Hormel Foods also earned sustainable sites credits by providing erosion and sedimentation management that exceed environmental regulations. The 39.5-acre campus employs a low-maintenance, no-irrigation landscape. Also in this LEED category, innovations include reflective white membrane roofing and concrete paving to reduce "heat island" effects. (Permeable concrete also reduces runoff.) Car/van-poolers get preferred parking, and the facility has locker rooms with showers available for bicycle commuters and all employees.
In addition to the LEED certification, the energy efficiency of the facility has been evaluated and verified by Alliant Energy, the local energy provider. As a result, Alliant awarded the plant more than $500,000 in rebates and has presented Progressive Processing with several awards to recognize the outstanding features and performance in the area of electrical energy conservation.

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