Energy Efficiency grant for Irving Forest Products

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

February 8th, 2012 

“By reducing the demand for electricity by 6.5 million kilowatt hours a year, Irving doesn’t merely lower its operating costs, but it lowers the cost of electricity for all Maine ratepayers,” said Ian Burnes Business Program Manager at Efficiency Maine.

Efficiency Maine awarded Irving Forest Products a $471,000 incentive to install a kiln moisture control system that will save the company nearly 15 percent of their annual energy expense – 3.2 million kilowatt hours a year. That amounts to enough energy to power 530 homes a year.

“The incentives from Efficiency Maine will allow the mill to take advantage of low-cost energy that we otherwise would not be able to access because of high up-front costs,” said Division Manager Susan Coulombe. “By reducing the amount of electricity purchased on the grid, the project will allow Irving to remain more competitive, and reinvest those resources in its people and operations.”

The mill currently employs 235 people.

Irving currently uses a static time-based drying schedule that does not account for wood product variables such as age, seasonality and size. The company identified a need to change its wood product drying processes to improve customer satisfaction, system efficiency and overall costs. With the kiln the company will be able to monitor the moisture of its wood as it dries. The changes should reduce energy consumption by allowing the company’s kilns, fans, and boilers to operate more efficiently. Irving will also be able to reduce the amount of fuel burned in the boiler and cut greenhouse gases.

This is the second incentive award that Irving has won through a competitive program run through Efficiency Maine where projects are ranked on the basis of cost effectiveness and project readiness. The first incentive was used to install a steam turbine that reduced Irving’s dependence on grid-supplied electricity by 4.2 Million kWh.

“Both projects will allow the mill to be at 100% capacity,” said Coulombe. “That’s something that’s extremely rare in the forest products industry today.”

The Dixfield mill generates steam using three biomass-fed boilers. These boilers provide both process steam to power sawmill operations as well as heating for the complex.The backpressure turbine generator alters the steam pressure to the required process pressures and temperatures.

Efficiency Maine issued an RFP for its new Competitive Program last September, inviting Maine businesses to compete for funding of large electrical energy efficiency and distributed generation projects. Funding levels ranged from $100,000 to $500,000 per facility, up to 50% of the total project costs.