Focusing On Savings

Posted on May 1, 2011 :: Green Business
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Werner Electric Supply helps companies go green

Werner Electric Supply plays a dual role in helping its customers become more energy efficient and save money. As an electrical automation distributor, the Neenah company supplies equipment, hardware and other products to a broad range of projects. And, as a trade ally of Focus on Energy, Werner provides advice, counsel and creative solutions to help customers take full advantage of Focus’ expertise and financial incentives.

Focus on Energy recently reported Werner provided energy-efficient products for 67 projects during 2010 resulting in $154,417 of financial incentives from the organization. Those projects totaled a savings of more than 3.6 million kilowatt hours of energy and reduced energy bills by $292,559 in just one year. That has the same environmental impact as removing 3,094 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or removing 592 cars from the road.

Werner has three employees dedicated to helping their business customers see the opportunities for energy efficiency, get grant money and ultimately save energy.

“We not only educate our customers and help them make decisions about the incentives,” says Dan Ebben, Werner’s vice president of electrical products, “we also walk them through the paperwork process to claim them. Plus, we offer onsite evaluations of how much energy they are using and how much can be saved, and suggest products that will cut down their electrical consumption.”

A case in point is Werner’s work with the warehouse at Kimberly-Clark’s Neenah Cold Spring Facility.

“Just about the time I was appointed energy conservation coordinator at our facility, Dan Cowling of Werner came in with a new Cooper light fixture he thought we should take a look at,” says Mike Carini, a K-C electrical planner. “After a thorough cost-benefit analysis, K-C decided to replace 1,500 fluorescent fixtures.

“The total cost was about a half million dollars,” continues Carini, “but we recouped 25 percent of that through a Focus on Energy grant. We had a 35 percent reduction in lighting load the first year, which means our payback period was just short of two years.”

Because of this and similar efforts, the Cold Spring facility is benchmarked by K-C corporate-wide for energy efficiency.

“We market in a push-pull way,” says Amanda Wollin, marketing manager for Focus on Energy’s business programs. “While our services are available directly to the end user, we have energy advisors around the state who have experience in various industries, and a network of trade allies – like Werner Electric Supply – who also help educate people.”

Statewide, Focus on Energy’s efforts helped Wisconsin residents, farms and businesses save more than $319 million in energy in 2009, the latest full-year figures that are available. That is up $80 million from the previous year. For every Focus on Energy dollar invested, customers have saved $2.20 in energy costs.

Another example is Focus on Energy’s work with Neenah Foundry. The company has 68 vortex cabinet coolers that keep electronic circuitry safe, as well as cool and dry. They run non-stop, and required $204,000 of compressed air per year to operate. Focus suggested they switch to thermostatically controlled cabinet coolers with an integrated purge function.

Neenah Foundry initially retrofitted 30 of the coolers through Focus’ emerging technology energy-based financing options, and saw a complete return on its investment in less than six months. The cost of operating each cooler dropped from $3,000 per year to $930, resulting in an energy savings of more than $141,000 per year.

“Financial incentives and technical assistance from Focus allowed us to initially move forward with this project,” says Keith Rushford, electrical engineer at Neenah Foundry. “This project paid for itself so quickly we were able to invest in more cabinet cooler retrofits on our own.”

Eck Industries of Manitowoc, a family-owned aluminum foundry business, has also realized significant savings by working with Focus on Energy. Eck melts nearly 10 million pounds of aluminum each year, and had been using gas-fired crucible furnaces that lacked covers and heat recovery features.

Focus recommended insulated furnace covers that would retain heat, which were actually fabricated by Eck itself. In addition, the organization recommended a recuperative burner (one that would capture and reuse heat) to help preheat incoming combustion air.

The result was a significant energy savings that translated into $17,280 annually. That puts the project payback at 1.5 years.

“Now that we have demonstrated that the furnace can save significant energy, we are interested in upgrading the remaining high-production furnaces,” says Tyler Eck, manufacturing engineer, Eck Industries.

“Businesses cannot afford to overlook energy efficiency practices,” summarizes Focus on Energy’s Wollin. “And Focus is here to help. We work with businesses to identify cost effective projects that help reduce energy use – and that helps improve their bottom line.”