Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sigma-Aldrich Corp. lights up energy savings

The Sigma-Aldrich Corp. complex in Milwaukee is one of the corporation’s largest energy users. An internal energy team -- facilities manager, maintenance supervisor and project engineer -- developed a three-year plan in 2008 to improve energy efficiency at the complex. Since then, the company has saved more than $250,000, primarily by replacing 99 percent of the facility's lighting.

Illuminating process
Edward Niemiec, CEM facilities manager and key member of the Milwaukee facility energy team, says that Sigma-Aldrich uses a straightforward approach to identifying and implementing energy efficiency projects. "The project must accomplish four things to be considered," said Niemiec. "It must increase energy efficiency, reduce maintenance, improve quality and meet our return-on-investment hurdle rate."

Focus on Energy incentives
All of Sigma-Aldrich's projects in the past three years received Focus on Energy financial incentives. Focus on Energy -- Wisconsin's statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy -- helps Wisconsin residents and businesses manage energy costs, promotes in-state economic development, protects the environment and controls the state's electricity and natural gas demand through cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

We Energies assistance
To help Sigma-Aldrich and other business customers that use the most energy, we have an account management organization at We Energies. Account managers conduct joint planning sessions and provide ongoing support for a company's energy needs. "Without the monetary assistance that Focus on Energy provided to meet our ROI threshold and the support and practical energy advice we receive from We Energies, none of these projects would have been completed," said Niemiec. "We are grateful for all their assistance."

New lighting technologyInduction lighting for Sigma-Adrich's outdoor and key production facility areas is responsible for the company's energy savings. Induction lighting is the result of electronically excited mercury vapor emitting short-wave ultraviolet light that excites the bulb's phosphors inside the bulb. The fixtures have a 100,000-hour-rated life due to the lack of electrodes inside the glass tube, which means a practically maintenance-free system.

Project specfics Prior to project implementation, small-scale testing provided the needed proof that the lighting levels improved enough to warrant the project. Improvements ranged from 20 to 30 percent. Sigma-Aldrich worked with Energy Efficient Solutions, Stay-Lite Lighting and Fairway Lighting for full implementation to achieve energy savings of 50 to 60 percent. The projects included: Outdoor lighting replacements and retrofits of 200 metal-halide parking and wall-pack lamps with 70- to 200-watt induction lamps.
  • Production facility retrofits of 247 240-watt metal-halide lamps with 100-watt induction lamps.
  • High-bay warehouse area retrofits of 78 460-watt metal-halide lamps with 165-watt induction lamps and 18 210-watt metal-halide lamps were retrofitted with 55-watt induction lamps.
  • Interior walkway retrofits of 20 210-watt metal-halide lamps with 70-watt induction lamps.

Other projects
In addition to the induction lighting projects, the team installed variable-frequency drives on air handling equipment and pumps, re-lamped 1,000, 32-watt T8 fluorescent lamps with 28-watt T8 lamps, installed occupancy and day lighting controls, outdoor resets on boilers and nighttime setbacks for heating and cooling systems.

Combined, the projects at the Milwaukee facility are at the forefront of Sigma-Aldrich's corporate energy efficiency efforts.

Sigma-Aldrich website

Monday, September 26, 2011

Briggs & Stratton generates savings

Small-engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton Corp. conducts rigorous product testing to ensure dependable performance of its lawn mowers, power washers and portable generators. The company also rigorously maximizes efficiency and reduces waste, which is why the company is capturing some of the power that had been lost during engine testing.

Engine testing
The company tests engines at 100 stations located within three facilities in Wauwatosa, Wis. Engines are tested up to thousands of hours to ensure performance with extended use. During the testing process, resistive load banks simulate actual loads that engines may encounter in the field. As the engines are tested, heat is generated, which is dissipated through the resistive load banks and hydraulic loading.

Innovation at work
Briggs & Stratton investigated options for using the heat generated in the testing process. The company chose power regeneration, a process by which the tested engines are coupled with hydrostatic transmissions that are connected to a magnet generator to produce electricity. The project went unfunded for several years because the project's complexity and equipment required to capture the heat and turn it into power did not meet the payback required for renewable and power generation projects. However, with the support of a funding grant from Focus on Energy, Briggs & Stratton was able to initiate a pilot project last year.

Focus on Energy
Focus on Energy is Wisconsin's statewide energy efficiency and renewable energy program. The program helps Wisconsin residents and businesses manage energy costs, promote in-state economic development, protect the environment and control electricity and natural gas demand by helping implement cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Powerful team
The project at Briggs & Stratton required guidance and expertise from several key partners. After applying for Focus on Energy's Competitive Energy Efficiency Incentive, the company piloted 12 testing stations into regenerative stations. Rockwell Automation provided the regeneration equipment as well as engineering expertise to overcome the complex issues associated with transferring power from the engines to the buss work. We Energies provided technical support to connect the power generation to both the Briggs & Stratton and We Energies systems.

Save Energy Now Leader
Briggs & Stratton has a strong commitment to sustainability through corporate and local teams. These teams meet regularly to share ideas for best practices and to identify opportunities for continued improvements. In 2009, Briggs & Stratton became a Save Energy Now Leader. The company is committed to reducing its energy intensity by 25 percent in 10 years and, as a leader, is working with other companies to reduce energy consumption.

Proven winner
While final energy savings resulting from the pilot are not yet available, the projected savings are significant. In addition to energy savings, the new system has increased the capability and flexibility of the testing process, enhanced data acquisition and improved testing accuracy. The system records testing data, such as temperature and engine speeds, and is programmed to alert testers to pending catastrophic failures before they occur.

Perseverance pays off
For anyone considering challenging projects, Richard Feustel, corporate energy services manager at Briggs & Stratton offers this advice, “Do not give up on your idea. Employees knew there was a good opportunity to turn unharnessed power into something sustainable." The team at Briggs & Stratton has shown that with perseverance and the right partnerships, a great idea can become a reality for energy efficiency.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Appleton Medical Center project targets sustainability

To reduce costs and improve efficiency, the Appleton Medical Center, a member of Thedacare, made its new nine-story addition to its facility as sustainable as possible.
The project included energy-efficient lighting, new boilers and solar water heating to supply domestic hot water to patients’ rooms and nursing floors. The measures provide substantial savings and help achieve sustainability goals.
Incentives provided by both We Energies and Focus on Energy helped the Appleton Medical Center install a 48-panel, drain-back solar system in 2010. Since its installation, the panels have provided the thermal equivalent of more than 20,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, saving more than $13,000 per year in energy costs.
On a sunny, zero-degree day in January 2011, the fluid temperature in the panels was 190 degrees. Through a heat exchanger, the fluid was able to heat water in the storage tanks to more than 150 degrees – several degrees hotter than the recommended maximum temperature for any domestic water heating system.
“The system is expected to supply more than 85 percent of the total year-round hot water needs for the new 75-bed addition,” according to Cliff Schneider, AMC Facilities manager. “We’ve been very pleased with this decision as it’s nearly maintenance free and reduces our environmental footprint.”   
Prior to construction, a series of neighborhood meetings were held about the new addition, and the solar panel arrays were designed to minimize visibility from the street.
The total project cost was approximately $168,000, with incentives from We Energies and Focus on Energy covering more than $117,000.

In giving, this group of volunteers received

A dozen of our customer operations supervisors received more than they gave when they shared their time at a meal program on Milwaukee’s south side in August. The 12 customer service and field service supervisors volunteered for an event hosted by The Gathering.

The volunteers worked together for three hours in the late afternoon and early evening, assisting with final food preparation, set up, serving and cleanup. Besides sharing their time, they surprised The Gathering staff with a donation of nine gallons of milk and four containers of coffee, paid with money pooled by the group.

“We had the privilege to not only serve but speak with members of the community who were either homeless or living on a very limited income,” said Jennifer Eisner, customer service supervisor – WAOC, who organized the activity for her peers. “Many of the people who were served didn’t know where their next meal would come from. Though these individuals may struggle daily with circumstances most of us may never encounter, they had wonderful attitudes and outlooks on life. They were pleasant, polite and hopeful for a change in their near future.”

Eisner said the team found the opportunity to serve to be an overwhelmingly positive experience. “The smiles and meaningful words of appreciation were more than we expected and could ask for,” she said. “The experience was humbling, inspiring and motivating. When we left The Gathering, we were already talking about volunteering at The Gathering again and devoting time to other places, people or activities that may need our help.”

Monday, September 12, 2011

Contact center's assistance on 9-11 revealed

Our customer contact center's role in the hours following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were reported in news coverage about the event's 10th anniversary.

After the attacks, the U.S. Department of Justice contacted us to ask if we could lend our call center expertise to be a point of contact for family and friends of victims who were seeking information about loved ones who may have been among the thousands who were injured, killed or missing. More than 700 employees – from the contact center and other departments – handled more than 14,000 calls from concerned family members in a little more than two days following the attacks.

Employees interviewed by WISN-TV shared their personal recollections:
WISN-TV report

Friday, September 2, 2011

Crews work to repair extensive Fox Valley damage

Our crews are cutting and clearing many trees in the Fox Valley so they can replace poles or re-string power lines that came down during a storm late this morning with winds near 80 mph that knocked out power to more than 45,000 customers Friday.

Crews from other areas were sent to assist in the Fox Valley restoration effort. In addition to the work of We Energies forestry crews, Appleton’s forestry department is helping clear the city’s main thoroughfares. When the damaged trees are removed, restoration of power can begin.

Due to the extensive damage across several counties in the Fox Valley, the restoration will take longer than usual. While some customers are being restored today, we estimate that it will be late Sunday or early Monday morning before most repairs are completed.

We remind customers to stay away from any line that is down and anything touching it. Always assume a power line is energized.

Customers can view the extent of the outages on our outage map

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Line crews travel to Rhode Island to assist with power restoration following Hurricane Irene

Responding to a call for assistance, we sent sent 29 employees — four managers and supervisors, 24 line personnel and one fleet technician — to Providence, R.I., to help restore power knocked out by Hurricane Irene. The crews left the Racine Service Center Aug. 31, around 9:30 a.m. to assist National Grid.

The caravan forms for the trip to Rhode Island.

Local news coverage: