As part of our continuous improvement program at the Hawk Ridge Compost Facility (HRCF), we committed to the implementation of a comprehensive Environmental Management System. In January of 2009 HRCF received third party Environmental Management System Certification for these efforts. Under this certification, HRCF made energy efficiency one of its goals for continuous improvement.
When diesel fuel prices went above $4.00/gallon in 2008, it became clear that the best long term strategy for sustainability would be for HRCF to invest in three phase power, with a connection 5 miles away, rather than use the diesel generators on site. The $290K investment was coupled with "Maine Made Incentives" of over $50k to complete the upgrade. The payback on the program was projected to be two to three years with an annual savings reaching over $200K per year.
In February of 2009 HRCF stopped generating its own power and went live on the grid. As we were realizing savings after the flickof the switch, we immediately started looking for other ways to reduce energy consumption. HRCF implemented several operating process changes that directly impacted energy usage; such changes included monitoring blower operating flow rates, raising the scrubber temperature set point, standardizing the practice of ordering replacement motors at premium efficiency, combining compressed air systems and placing timers on all equipment block heaters.
In April of 2010, through the Efficiency Maine Business Program, HRCF replaced all of the old lighting in the facility with new premium efficient lighting. These changes, along with the changes in 2009, resulted in a reduction in energy usage of 4.3% and 8.9% respectively over 2008. Later in 2010, HRCF had an engineer design an "all green" heating and cooling system for its new on-site office. The system utilizes geothermal ground temperature to cool the office during the summer months and process water from the composting operation to heat the building during winter months and includes a heat exchanger and underground piping to make the heat transfer. In June of 2011 HRCF moved into its new office and we expect to see further energy efficiency from this upgrade.
In April of 2011, HRCF went a step further and had a design completed to tie its maintenance shop into the same geothermal application. This should be operational by the end of October 2011 and at today’s price of propane, we expect to yield approximately $10K in savings annually for this $40K investment.
Spending the time and money on these initiatives was not only the “right” thing to do to become more energy efficient; it was also economically a good decision for our facility. We expect to reap the benefits for many years to come.