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Stemilt earns governor’s energy efficiency award


Photo of Stemilt monitors

Chelan PUD Engineer Jim White records data from monitors at Stemilt Growers' Olds Station plant to compare energy use from month to month.

Stemilt Growers has earned the Governor’s Award for Leadership in Energy Performance  for greatly reducing its energy use with help from Chelan PUD.

Washington state Governor Chris Gregoire  presented the award at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Dec. 5.  Tate Mathison, sales team leader, and Monty Leavitt, refrigeration manager, accepted the award for Stemilt.

Over the past two years, Stemilt reduced energy consumption at its largest fruit packing facility, Olds Station in Wenatchee, by 30 percent. Energy use at the facility is dominated by industrial refrigeration and controlled atmosphere equipment used to keep fruit fresh until it can be processed and shipped. Stemilt made efficiency improvements by reducing the speed of  industrial refrigeration fans and installing CO2 scrubbers to control the atmosphere in storage rooms.

Controls on refrigeration fans can slow the speed of the fans by as much as 50 percent, thereby improving efficiency. Fan speeds are adjusted regularly based on the demand for refrigeration in each storage area.

CO2 scrubbers helps control the amount of CO2 inside fruit storage rooms (apples release CO2 as they are stored). NASA developed CO2 scrubbers in the 1960s for the Apollo space program to keep CO2 exhaled by astronauts from reaching high levels in the space capsule. These scrubbers lower carbon dioxide levels, which significantly reduces Stemilt’s reliance on nitrogen, the traditional way CO2 was purged from rooms.

Together, these improvements helped Stemilt realize energy savings of 8,770,190 kWh per year, which equates to $167,000 in utility costs annually and is enough energy to power about 400 all-electric homes in Chelan County.

The conservation projects were made possible through the PUD’s Resource$mart program. Jim White, senior energy conservation engineer, oversees the program and helps companies like Stemilt find and fund projects that save energy.

“This kind of project helps everyone,” said White. “The customers save money, local jobs are created installing the equipment, and Chelan County PUD has more clean, renewable hydropower that it can sell to others. We hope Stemilt’s success will encourage other local businesses to take advantage of the services we offer to help find energy savings.”

These two Stemilt projects cost a combined $1 million, of which $625,000 was paid through rebates from the PUD. Washington State University also paid $50,000 on the variable frequency drive project through its own energy dollars.

Beyond funding, Chelan County PUD’s expertise in energy conservation has enabled Stemilt to see these and other projects to fruition over the past 12 years.

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