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Energy management keeps Washington plant kilowatts ahead of competition
5/29/2013 12:00 AM
Transforming two polymers into high-performance filaments one-hundredth the size of a human hair takes a lot of expertise. And energy.
For Fitesa’s 30-year-old non-woven manufacturing facility in Washougal, Wash., which transforms polymer pellets into sheets of non-woven fiber for diapers, wipes and filters, cutting costs is essential to its viability in its industry.
“We are the only non-woven plant on the West Coast, and both a large percentage of our customer base and competition are on the East Coast, which means we pay a lot more money in freight,” says plant manager Dave Rohrbach. “So we have to do a lot of other things to remain cost competitive.”
With an energy-intensive production process that consumed about 19 million kilowatt hours of energy a year, Rohrbach knew improving efficiency was a good approach. “It’s obvious that saving a kilowatt of power is going to save money on the bottom line,” says Rohrbach. “The problem is organizing your efforts in such a way that you get the biggest bang for the buck.”
BPA and Clark Public Utilities helped Fitesa cut its energy use by 3.5 million kilowatt hours through energy efficiency measures and chiller, air compressor and lighting upgrades.
Enter Clark Public Utilities,
which introduced Fitesa to the Bonneville Power Administration’s Energy Smart Industrial program. BPA’s program works with Northwest public utilities and their industrial customers, offering program management, technical recommendations and financial incentives to advance energy efficiency throughout the region.
A five-person High Performance Energy Management team supported by Clark PUD and technical consultants provided by BPA’s ESI program identified a number of conservation initiatives and the introduction of new systems. In addition, Fitesa met collaboratively with 13 other Portland-Vancouver area industrial companies to explore other energy-saving possibilities.
The result, in one year, Fitesa is on track to trim energy usage by about 19 percent, or 3.5 million kilowatt hours annually.
Energy management is key
“We found significant opportunities to reduce energy usage once we found a way to correlate energy consumption with plant output,” says JD Hisey, the plant’s continuous improvement team manager. “Once it’s set up, it only takes a few minutes a week to monitor and helps us keep our savings plan on track.”
About 29 percent of the company’s energy savings is achieved through continuous improvement initiatives learned during the High Performance Energy Management work, initiatives like eliminating leaks in compressed air lines and managing equipment temperatures.
In addition, the Energy Smart Industrial program helped Fitesa pursue a capital project to replace aging cooling towers with three efficient chillers and control systems. The company received a $650,516 incentive from Clark PUD through the ESI program, which covered about 70 percent of the chiller system upgrade. The improvement saves Fitesa about 2.5 million kilowatt hours of energy a year.
“Energy efficiency is one of the main things we do to reduce our overhead so we can offer the same materials to the same customers without a disadvantage,” Rohrbach says. “It’s really a huge deal to this plant, not only from a competitive standpoint but a longevity standpoint.”
Annual electrical energy savings will equate to more than $135,000. The company also receives incentives from documented savings through the Energy Smart Industrial program. These incentives, along with substantial savings on Fitesa’s electric bill, made these efficiency upgrades an attractive investment.
Clark PUD views energy efficiency as a strategic approach to meet long-term demand growth while helping its customers achieve new levels of economic competitiveness. “It costs us less to use energy more efficiently than to build more capacity,” says Sam Walker, energy engineer for Clark PUD. “Through BPA’s Energy Smart Industrial program we’re providing companies the tools to understand, manage and reduce their energy use.”
Energy savings goes global
The work Fitesa has done with the ESI Program is now serving as a global model of the value of energy efficiency.
“Everything we do here is following the plan-do-check-act cycle, which is the continuous improvement cycle,” Hisey says. “In the last two years, we’ve saved around a million kilowatt-hours a year just from doing High Performance Energy Management projects.”
Building upon its success in Washougal, Fitesa has expanded its strategic energy management approach to its facilities across the globe. This work is being led from Washougal by Rohrbach, who is coordinating the company’s global energy and utility management initiative.
Rohrbach also notes there are benefits beyond the reduction in energy costs. “You’re saving on the energy up front with the kilowatts that you save. You’re saving on your capital costs with the BPA incentives. You also get new equipment in your plant, which reduces your downtime costs, your maintenance costs and repair costs. So the bigger question is why wouldn’t you do it.”
While Fitesa is a great example of what can be achieved through energy management, it also suggests there’s more energy savings out there to capture.
“A lot of facilities are missing out on low- or no-cost energy savings that can really add up,” says Todd Amundson, ESI energy management engineer.
To learn more about High Performance Energy Management, contact your local utility or visit
. For more on Fitesa Washougal’s energy efficiency measures and equipment upgrades,
watch the HPEM video case study.
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