J.R. Simplot Co. has embraced energy efficiency as a core business value. The Idaho food, fertilizer and chemical company has dramatically reduced its use of electricity and natural gas, saving millions of dollars annually.
Simplot, which has 10,000 employees worldwide and sales of about $4.5 billion annually, is one of the largest private companies in the nation. It created an energy road map to identify, implement and monitor changes in energy use. It hired personnel specifically to work on energy efficiency.
The company adjusted boilers in plants to run in idle mode when not in use. It installed motion switches in employees’ offices to control lighting. It controlled water use in its Don fertilizer plant in Pocatello, installed energy-efficient light fixtures, and took dozens of other actions.
The company says energy-efficiency improvements since 2009 have yielded natural gas savings of 1.3 trillion British thermal units and 390,821,028 kilowatt-hours of electricity. The electricity reduction is equivalent to taking 35,400 homes off the grid. The reduction also saved 95,056 tons of greenhouse-gas emissions, like taking 29,929 cars of the road.
“J.R. Simplot put it best himself, a long time ago: ‘Do well by doing good.’ At the company that bears his name, those words still drive decision making,” the Simplot family says.
Here are three other successes:
A WATER PARK SAVES WATER
Roaring Springs in Meridian pumps a half-million gallons of water through 20 slides and pools every hour during its summer season, all to give 250,000 annual visitors a wet and wild ride.
It stopped using seven of its 25 pumps in 2009 after Idaho Power experts looked at the operation. That cut electricity use 30 percent.
Previously, each ride had two or three pumps that operated at full throttle. The pumps had flow valves that regulated the water delivered to the rides and kept the flows from reaching their maximum. “If a pump is running at 100 percent, but its flow valve only allows 50 percent of its maximum flow, that means 50 percent of the pump’s capacity is wasted,” says Chris Pollow, an Idaho Power project engineer.
Roaring Springs opened the flow valves 100 percent, then used variable-frequency drives coupled with harmonic filters to reduce the electricity each pump receives. That slowed the pumps, allowing them to last longer. It also reduced the water flow and cut energy use.
Roaring Springs cut power use during the first year by 822,825 kilowatt hours, saving $65,000 on its power bill.
AN OFFICE BUILDING SEES THE LIGHT
The five-story Boise Plaza, previously the Boise Cascade building, is the largest office building in Idaho, housing 750 workers in 328,000 square feet at 1111 W. Jefferson St. in Downtown Boise. Built in 1971, it features a skylit interior atrium extending from the entry plaza to the top of the building.
When Boise developer Rafanelli and Nahas bought the building in 2006, the indoor lighting was too dim in some areas and too bright in others.
Rafanelli and Nahas installed new light fixtures and replaced light switches with an energy-management system with controls and occupancy sensors. The system not only dramatically cut energy consumption, but also solved the uneven lighting problem.
A TEA FACTORY MANIPULATES THE AIR
R.C. Bigelow, a family-owned company, is the No. 1 specialty tea company in the United States. It produces 1.3 billion tea bags a year and has a packing plant at 315 Benjamin Lane in Boise.
Bigelow replaced a heatless desiccant dryer with an oversized refrigerated dryer, and replaced an older compressor with a larger-capacity variable-speed compressor. The new compressor adjusts to load demands and maintains a consistent line pressure.
The new compressed-air system cost $17,026 but is estimated to save 92,609 kilowatt-hours per year.
“Not only did the energy project make the company more effective, it also had the end benefits of making our equipment last longer by using lower plant air pressure,” says Steve Holloway, RC Bigelow Boise Maintenance Manager.
Rocky Barker: 377-6484