Case Study: Maine Machine Products Company’s Bundled Energy Solutions

In late October 2015, we organized a celebration event at Maine Machine Products in South Paris, Maine.  Maine Machine Products’ 65,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility contains the latest in CNC and multi-axis machines and precision equipment.  They currently operate two shifts, both staffed with associates who are highly experienced and quality focused.  They are a world-class manufacturer of custom components and assemblies for targeted high-tech markets, such as semi-conductor, medical, defense and aerospace, telecom and fiber optics, and oil and gas.

MMPCo’s Facility Manager, Barry Kilgore, contacted us early in 2015 looking for ways to reduce energy expenses.
Working with Bob Degruchy of Graybar Electric, we designed a lighting retrofit plan that would decrease MMPCo’s annual electricity usage over 600,000 kWh. The system they chose included fixtures manufactured in the US by Cooper Industries and Light Corporation.

We were able to address Maine Machine’s HVAC energy costs with the CATALYST system from Transformative Wave Technologies. CATALYST is a combination hardware and software platform that has consistently produced energy savings of 40% to 60% in systems exactly like MMPCo’s.

With help from Brant Small of Transformative Wave, a CATALYST system was designed that would reduce electricity usage by approximately 325,000 kWh per year. The overall savings of 925,000 kWh is enough energy to power the average home for 100 years.

With the project costs and the savings estimates calculated, we submitted the project to Efficiency Maine for pre-approval. LED lighting is a standard part of lighting retrofit projects within the industry. Energy-saving controls designed specifically for constant volume rooftop HVAC units, however, had not been done in Maine before as part of an Efficiency Maine program; The technology needed to be researched and verified.

We worked with Efficiency Maine to have the CATALYST system evaluated and the bundled project pre-approved for incentives in an amount that represented 50% of the project cost and provided Maine Machine Products with a one-year payback. The project began in July 2015, and concluded in October 2015.

A Brief Reflection…

I’m so tired that I’m cross eyed but please indulge me for a short story. A few years ago I volunteered to help with recording the audiobiographies of many of the millworkers that worked in Lewiston at the turn-of-the-century. A generation that was dying. Most of them were millworkers of Franco American descent. Their various stories brought both laughs and tears to those of us recording their lives. Today one particular story came to mind.

Jean and Yvonne both worked at the Bates Mill, Jean a machine operator and Yvonne a ” bobbin girl”. As a bobbin girl, Yvonne wore a long cotton dress every day and slid along the hardwood floors under the machines on her back lubricating the bearings while machines were operating. They were paid on piece-work and didn’t stop the machines for maintenance. The bobbin girls were small enough to slid under these looms while operating with only inches of clearance to the whirring and deafening looms. She was 14 years old when she started and worked 12 hours a day six days a week. After every shift she ran home five blocks away to exchange shoes with her twin sister as they shared a single pair of shoes typically making her sister late for her shift. After meeting Jean they moved back to rural Quebec and married at 17. For their honeymoon they traveled back to Lewiston to visit family and friends, it was the only vacation they could afford. Both ventured out one day while there to visit friends. Jean went nearly insane when Yvonne didn’t return after more than 24 hours. When she went back to the mill to visit with the ” girls” the supervisor indulged her to fill in for a vacant bobbin girl who was sick. She knew what a hardship this was on the other girls and agreed, working a double shift (24 hrs). She returned to the apartment the next day, her new ” travel clothes” and hair covered head to toe in cotton fibers. Her new husband cried and all was well once again…..True story as told by Yvonne.

Today I returned to our office after a very long and tiring day. Several of our team was still there after about a 12 hour day. A core group has worked these long days consecutively without break for couple weeks doing a massive software conversion that will be a huge asset to our customers. While not covered in fibers they have the same commitment Yvonne did to her “girls”. Gawd…sometimes they bring tears to my eyes. An inspiration and extraordinary bunch they all are. Thank you….

Dan

Maine’s Impending Energy Crisis

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We have been watching the natural gas storm on the horizon for some time, and this is the first major lightning strike.  We’ve theorized that LNG (liquefied natural gas) would be exported to Europe soon, raising prices for all gas consumers in the United States.  While that is still probable, there is a more immediate, domestic dilemma that Maine residents and small business owners will soon face.

It hasn’t been a secret that we have limited natural gas pipeline availability in New England, and the major pipelines coming to us from the south are not nearly large enough to meet the requirements for our demanding heating season.  For example, since July, Maine Natural Gas has been unable to connect new customers to the gas mains until an uncertain date in 2015 (we suspect it will be late in the year).  While at Thayer we strive to remain fuel-neutral, we question whether it is in everyone’s best interest to connect to natural gas, with many reasons listed in one of our previous articles (read more here).

The Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC), along with representatives from other state agencies, has issued a press release to the public, warning them to prepare for a surge in the price of electricity during the upcoming winter months.  Over half of the electricity in Maine is generated from natural gas.  Increased demand for gas and an inability to meet that demand has directly caused the price of electricity for Mainers to skyrocket.  While homeowners will not see price spikes until March of 2015, small-to-medium businesses should brace for impact since rates will more than double for standard rate customers by January; CMP customers, for example, will see price spikes from $.06 to $.15 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the press release.

Individual consumers and businesses alike make financial decisions based on electricity being available at predictable costs; not priced on crisis.  The fact of the matter is that the natural gas pipeline is constricted, and that is not going to change for several years at best.  After the method of funding new pipelines is determined, political wills of many must align.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do before the onslaught of this energy crisis; all relating to energy efficiency.  Both Michael Stoddard, Executive Director of Efficiency Maine, and Tom Welch, Commission Chairman of Maine Public Utilities Commission believe that now is the perfect opportunity to take a proactive stance and make energy efficient decisions.  At the beginning of October, the MPUC has approved the increased allocation of funding to Efficiency Maine.

There are a number of changes to existing programs, which when combined with the rising cost of energy actually makes for better incentives, equaling quicker payback.  We have effectively bundled several of the existing Efficiency Maine programs with new ones to yield larger incentives for our client/partners.  Call one of our project engineers today and have your building benchmarked using the Energy Star rating system, which will give you a starting point of things to consider.  There are almost always cost effective improvements that can be made to make you more money.