Stemilt Growers Receives Governor’s Award for Energy Performance

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December 7, 2012

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington state Governor Chris Gregoire recognized Stemilt Growers with a Governor’s Award for Leadership in Energy Performance during an awards ceremony held at the state Capitol Wednesday night. Stemilt received the award for greatly reducing its energy use during the past two years, which it accomplished with help from Chelan County Public Utility District.

Stemilt’s Tate Mathison, sales team leader, and Monty Leavitt, refrigeration manager, accepted the award for the company. The awards were part of the Washington Industrial Energy Leaders program and intended to honor exceptional energy efficiency efforts by Washington state industries.

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

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 room.

The installation of 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 in the rooms which significantly reduces Stemilt’s reliance on nitrogen, the traditional way CO2 was purged from rooms.

Together, these improvements help 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 approximately 400 all-electric homes in Chelan County.

These conservation projects were made possible with help from Chelan County PUD and its Resource$mart Program. Jim White, senior energy conservation engineer for the PUD, 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 to implement; of which $625,000 was paid for 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.

“It’s a great honor for Stemilt to be recognized as an energy leader in Washington, a state with a great ‘green’ reputation. These energy savings projects and this award were made possible by our work with Chelan County PUD and the foresight of people like Jim White and Monty Leavitt to realize changes in our operations that would conserve energy for years to come,” said Roger Pepperl, Stemilt marketing director.

In addition to the Governor’s Award, Stemilt was recently named to Washington’s Green 50 list by Seattle Business Magazine. This was the fifth straight year Stemilt was recognized by the publication for its sustainability and social responsibility efforts through the company’s long-standing Responsible Choice program.