Energy systems for food processing facilities can provide renewable energy options, energy efficiency and fuel flexibility. Public and private partnerships are a means to obtaining sustainability and savings.
Food manufacturers are creative when it comes to developing new products and processes. Now there’s incentive to think outside the box in terms of energy systems, too.
The Department of Energy and other agencies provide funding for projects that advance the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency and fuel flexibility. Funding assistance can come in the form of research support, tax credits or direct project grants.
These public/private partnerships can accomplish what would be difficult for either business or government sectors to achieve alone: real-world demonstration of new technologies developed to fight global warming and increase U.S. energy security.
Finding a Match
Burns & McDonnell project manager Rod Schwass specializes in matching clients with funding opportunities through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Industrial Technology Program (ITP) in its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
The ITP supports projects that demonstrate the benefits of technologies such as combined heat and power (CHP) systems, small-scale wind power, roof-mounted solar arrays and biomass energy systems.
These technologies improve energy efficiency by squeezing the maximum utility from energy resources. CHP systems use waste heat from on-site power generation for useful purposes: heating, cooling, hot water, thermal energy storage and other applications. Thin-film solar panels can be mounted on unused rooftop space to capture energy from the sun to produce power, and solar-concentrator technology can be used to produce steam or hot water. Biomass energy systems, using feedstock materials such as agricultural or food process waste, landfill gas or waste wood can produce both thermal and electrical energy. Many of these applications are readily adaptable to the food process industry.
Incentives for Change
Through its program Save Energy Now, ITP provides no-cost initial assessments to assist facilities in analyzing their energy usage and determining the potential for implementing alternative energy systems. Through a combination of direct grants, tax credit programs and loan guarantee programs, the DOE may also provide up to 80 percent of the cost of feasibility analysis and 50 percent of project implementation costs.
That’s a powerful incentive for projects that also will reduce facilities’ energy costs on an ongoing basis.
“In the past five years alone, we have secured more than $130 million in incentive funding for its utility, industrial and institutional clients’ alternative energy projects,” Schwass says.
Case in Point
Most recently, Burns & McDonnell secured a significant DOE grant for a Midwestern food-industry client to design and install a fuel-flexibility project offsetting the use of natural gas for process heat. A 60,000-pound biomass boiler will burn waste wood from three guaranteed sources near the facility. The DOE funded more than $1.8 million of the project costs through its Fuel and Feedstock Flexibility Program. Burns & McDonnell food processing specialists designed special controls and other modifications that made the use of wood-fired boilers feasible for process needs.
“If you look at recent DOE-sponsored studies on energy consumption, they clearly show
that industry accounts for one-third of all energy consumption in the United States,”
says Schwass. “From the DOE’s perspective, the food-industry in particular is considered to be an energy-intensive industry and one in which alternative energy systems are under-utilized.
“Through incentive programs, the DOE is helping the food industry identify and implement alternative-energy projects. These projects contribute directly to reduced fossil-fuel consumption and reduced energy costs for food producers while improving
U.S. energy independence.”
For more information, contact Rod Schwass, (816) 822-4213.