A Soup Company and a Sporting Goods Manufacturer Walk into a Bar…

This post is part of a series of articles from 2011 EDF Climate Corps fellows. For more information on the authors or the EDF Climate Corps program, see the introductory article “A Triple Dose of EDF Climate Corps from Inside adidas, Kettle Cuisine and SunGard”

By Jef Benbanaste and Dara Hourdajian

What does a Massachusetts-based soup company have in common with a global sporting goods manufacturer?  Industrial facilities – spaces where they both need to understand energy consumption and improve energy efficiency to operate optimally.  As  EDF Climate Corps fellows working at Kettle Cuisine and the adidas Group this summer, we have both successfully hunted down and overseen free energy audits.  Just as sharing information and resources with one another has proved helpful this summer, we’re happy to share our secrets to availing of these free energy audits with readers as well.

First, consider the following benefits your business will realize from such an energy assessment:

  • Audits are free. No really – they are.
  • Non-vendor-affiliated third party audits don’t lead to a sales pitch but provide unbiased information
  • Audits identify energy efficiency improvement opportunities, compare consumption to similar facilities and determine eligibility for incentives and rebates
  • Third party audits can complement existing in-house efforts
  • Options are available for companies regardless of the size, location and degree of energy management capabilities

Greener soups?  Kettle Cuisine’s audit through the DOE’s Industrial Technologies Program  (Jef’s Insights)

With the smell of fresh basil, parsley, thyme and lemongrass wafting through the air, I navigated through Kettle Cuisine’s refrigerated produce preparation room and into the main kitchen containing the 200-gallon kettles in which all these ingredients came together. I pondered what equipment would be required for a self-directed energy audit here and whether there was any alternative to an in-house assessment.  Fortunately, I found Kettle Cuisine was able to take part in a free energy assessment offered through the Department of Energy’s Industrial Technologies Program.

The program offers very large and energy-intensive plants a three-day audit performed by a DOE energy expert and small-to-medium-sized plants a one-day assessment through DOE’s Industrial Assessment Centers.  Based on my conversations, the upper bound on eligibility criteria for the medium-sized plants seemed to be flexible.  Kettle Cuisine quickly qualified for a one-day audit performed by an engineering team from the University of Massachusetts Industrial Assessment Center.

Kettle Cuisine’s assessment included a plant walk-through, thermal imaging, the installation of meters and loggers to record data for a week and a summary of initial findings.  I am especially excited about the readings we will get from eight data loggers hooked up to our compressors, pumps and blast freezer. Understanding the energy consumption pattern of each system will be very beneficial in determining which efficiency projects provide the biggest bang for the buck.

adidas Group Scores with Utility and Non-Profit Offerings (Dara’s Insights)

Working for the adidas Group at its Portland, Oregon and Carlsbad, California locations, I have had the opportunity to work with several third party entities to take advantage of free energy audits.

I first got in touch with the EnergyTrust of Oregon, an independent nonprofit organization. It provides energy assessments, resources and funding to customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas who pay a dedicated percentage of their utility bills to support energy efficiency programs and services.

Quick to respond, the EnergyTrust has visited the adidas campus four times so far.  The first visit was to discuss the process, second to walk-through with a lighting specialist, a third visit with a mechanical engineer to assess the HVAC equipment, chillers, and data center, and most recently to ‘check-in’.  Right away, we agreed on two easy recommendations: installing occupancy sensors to reduce lighting and upgrading the chiller units.

I also discovered that the Carlsbad facility’s utility provider, San Diego Gas & Electric, offers free audits for customers, too.  Hence, a representative with over 30 years’ experience in the field visited and identified areas for potential energy solutions and likely rebates.  For example, an ancient walk-in refrigerator is eligible for incentives to optimize the fan motor power.  He also directed me to the California Center for Sustainable Energy, a non-profit organization that delivers objective information, guidance, tools and analysis to the community.

The Fellows Combine Forces to Offer Tips for a Successful Energy Audit

  • Book in advance.  Kettle Cuisine and adidas were lucky in quickly getting visits scheduled, but free services can be in high demand
  • Ensure someone familiar with the facility is available during the audit
  • If collecting data, ask if measuring tools can be kept on for a couple of days to track consumption both during peak and off-peak times
  • Write down all pertinent information provided during the audit; reports received later might not always include every detail discussed

Clearly, facilities should check out the services available to them, whether it be a DOE, utility or a non-profit energy audit.  Take advantage of these opportunities to jumpstart energy efficiency projects and shrink energy bills in your building.

[Image Credit: Jeremy Wayne, Flickr]

(Jef Benbanaste is a 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Kettle Cuisine, MBA Candidate at MIT’s Sloan School of Management) and Dara Hourdajian (2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at adidas Group, MEM Candidate at Columbia University)

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