In 2009, Rob Peaslee, with Manitowoc Grey Iron Foundry (MGIF), accepted a challenge from the US Department of Energy to reduce their energy intensity by 25% over 10 years. As President of Manitowoc Grey Iron Foundry, Peaslee can proudly say that with the assistance of Focus on Energy they reduced the energy intensity of the foundry by 17% in the last decade. That’s a real bottom line impact.
“Customers are wonderful, but they’re not the only way your business can make money,” said Peaslee.
How did the foundry create that kind of result?
After accepting the challenge, Peaslee and his energy team were introduced to the resources of Focus on Energy when subject matter expert, Doug Presny, visited the foundry to help identify and prioritize projects that would be the most impactful.
Recommendations from the visit included better management of ventilation air to reduce heating cost and eliminate negative pressure in the foundry, managing compressed air leaks while optimizing use of the compressors, and recovering heat from exhaust air.
“These kind of opportunities are available to any foundry,” Presny said. “The technical aspects are well understood. Rob is as busy as anyone else. The difference is that he consistently made the time to work on these projects in a cost effective way supported by the Focus on Energy Program.”
Steve Lewallen, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Cast Metal Association, adds, “The cast metal industry runs on tight margins. Financial incentives from Focus on Energy can bring the return on investment for any particular project into the range where an owner can confidently make the decision to do the project.”
As the foundry’s energy team worked on priority projects they also made progress toward their long-term energy intensity reduction goal. Eventually they cut the horsepower needed to run the foundry’s compressors in half. Over a two-year period, they re-lamped the facility with LED lights replacing less efficient technologies, driving savings of 316,800 kilowatt hours over the life of the new lamps. Finally, they put in an exhaust air heat recovery system expected to save over 32,649 MMBtu in the first year.
One project in particular highlights the engineering resources Focus on Energy provides for its customers interested in emerging technologies. A Focus subject matter expert in metal casting assisted MGIF to install a technology called Advanced Oxidation (AO). Green sand molds contain sand and clay as well as coal. AO improves the quality of the molds by making the clay better able to retain moisture. Retained moisture dramatically reduces the amount of dust generated when processing and handling green sand. That reduces silica exposure in the facility. Better (harder) molds increase yields by as much as 10-15% which saves energy. As a beneficial side effect, the AO process also removes sea coal from the mold pre-mix thereby reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emitted by almost 50% compared to a conventional foundry. And Peaslee added, “it makes the surface finish of our castings look amazing.”
Peaslee highlighted that energy efficiency projects also bring additional benefits. The effort to better manage their ventilation air designed to support production also contributes to air quality. As Peaslee noted, “The air on the foundry floor is as clean as the air in my office,” making employees’ work environment cleaner and safer. Well lit areas also go a long way toward encouraging employee engagement in the energy efficiency effort.
As the Manitowoc Grey Iron Foundry example suggests, Wisconsin metal casters have emerged as leaders in energy efficiency. Leveraging both technical energy engineering support and financial incentives available through Focus on Energy, Wisconsin metal casters have saved over 9 million MMBtu since 2012. Lifecycle energy cost savings for the industry over the same period is nearly $78 million.
Peaslee credits not only Focus on Energy resources, but also the partnership with local utilities like Manitowoc Public Utilities (MPU).
“They came out and explained the utility bill,” said Peaslee. “They asked how much energy we really need to run our company. Companies should work with their utility to find new ways to save money and better manage the energy used. Helping to keep our usage in line with our production. That’s what MPU did for us.”
“As a community-owned utility, we make an effort to reach out and engage our customer/owners in energy-related topics,” said Dan Salm, Key Accounts Manager at MPU. “Rob and his staff have always shown great interest in their energy use patterns and application of efficient technology through Focus on Energy.”
Peaslee concluded, “Focus on Energy has the resources to show you what to do. It is tough as a business owner to know where to start. Have Focus on Energy come in and do an audit. Then sit down with your energy advisor and prioritize what you can afford.”
To learn more about how your business can save money and energy, contact Focus on Energy at 800.762.7077 or go online at www.focusonenergy.com.