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.
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.
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.
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.