On the site, Stimson has a hardboard plant, a large dimension sawmill and a stud mill. The hardboard mill was one of only three in the US when it started in the 1940s and some of the timber salvaged from the huge Tillamook Forest Burn went into the original hardboard. Stimson now owns 500,000 acres of timberlands in five states, with 14 manufacturing facilities, and the company employs more than 2,000 people. Rising electricity bills concerned both management and employees at Stimson Lumber Company and the outcome was a task force made up of a representative of each Forest Grove division.
Veteran sawmill manager Bonnie Gibbs was one of the leaders of the 12-person group which reduced the wattage and, at the same time, increased efficiency. Jason Johnson is team leader. Stimson consumed more than 60.5 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity in 2004. Before the programme, the plant used about 100kWh per thousand board feet of lumber produced. Now it is down to 80 to 85kWh. Power savings of six million kWh are expected annually, along with improved light quality and colour rendering. Team members are authorised to write up works orders to the maintenance department to meet their goals.
The project was instigated by Stimson’s chief financial officer, vice president Bill Peressini, who said: "We started with the assumption that the biggest potential for savings will come from changing people’s behaviour. My hunch is that people turn off their lights at home because they know what the cost is. Once our employees started looking around our operations, they became expert at spotting waste and took our efforts to save energy very seriously". Probably the simplest explanation is that they "just turned things off," said Ms Gibbs. "Our team changed bad habits in the mill. Our goal was to reduce power consumption by 5%. This involved such things as lighting, eliminating air leaks and air compressor cycling."
The most noticeable action was in mill lighting. The buildings had ceiling-mounted fixtures with 1,000W bulbs. Alderbrook & Associates Lighting Services, Portland, Oregon, replaced these with the same number of hanging fixtures, 24 feet off the floor, and substituted 450W, more-efficient, metal halide wide-angle lights. These have not only decreased power consumption but also provide a better-lighted floor. The previous fixtures could have been as much as 15 feet higher than their present locations. Each of the old lights cost $265 per year to operate. The new lights are equipped with more than 300 motion sensors and adjustable built-in timers so that if a light doesn’t sense activity in the immediate area after 10 minutes, it goes to half wattage, dropping from 450 to 225W. Outside lights are off during daylight, controlled by photo cells or timers.
The job inside involved nearly 1,000 T8 high-performance fluorescent fixtures, more than 500 pulse start metal halide 450W fixtures, some 60 lower-powered pulse start metal halide and other fluorescent fixtures. More low-cost fluorescent fixtures will be installed. The entire project has a two-year pay-back period. The second part of this project is a compressed air energy system controlled by a PLC. All five of the mill’s air compressors are linked, with a pipe added to loop all the pipes together. The system turns each compressor on and off to fit the system’s needs. Before, there could be pressure drops on one end of the plant, now there is constant pressure throughout. The next step is to replace wasteful older electric motors with premium efficiency ones.
The team’s work not only involved the capital improvements, but it generated power-saving consciousness among the employees. They came up with promotions and slogans to accomplish this: Such reminders as turning off office lights, shutting down mill motors and running chippers only when needed. An incentive programme for departments rewards employees for 5%, 7% and 10% power cost savings. "Power didn’t used to cost an arm and a leg to heat a building, but now it’s a pretty big focus for us," Ms Gibbs said. Cost savings haven’t matched decreased power usage because rates are going up at the same time. But power usage has decreased roughly 7% per year. It was 8% for the first three months. Another project involves hardboard press venting where air is pulled off the press with emissions directed to scrubbers to clean out organic matter and then to a biofilter that breaks down the organics. Trimer Corp, Owosso will furnish the equipment, beginning in August.
In addition to normal maintenance checks, there are monthly air and hydraulic checks and maintenance people keep all the machines in top condition. Unnecessary friction is one example of power hogging. Infrared guns aid checks of equipment and power lines where heat acts as a warning of a problem. "We check more than 350 motors in the sawmill. Vibration analysis provides other warnings," said Matt Reynolds, sawmill maintenance superintendent. Cameron D Mierau, project engineer, said: "We have two compressors in the hardboard plant, tied together, much like the sawmill." Rogers Machinery, Portland, Oregon, did that work and Alderbrook Associates, Portland, Oregon, did the lighting, as it did in the sawmills.
The hardboard plant doesn’t need light sensors as the plant runs night and day. In other energy-saving moves, Stimson has replaced quite a bit of heavy moving equipment with new models using less fuel, perhaps dropping from 12 gallons per hour down to seven or eight. "All these projects are based on less than three-year payback as we have to justify the cost," Mr Reynolds added. Energy Trust of Oregon helped with the training, as did Portland General Electric Co, Stimson’s power supplier. Energy Trust, a non-profit organisation, is dedicated to changing energy uses by promoting energy efficiency and clean renewable energy in Oregon. It furnishes some subsidies for energy conservation projects. In this case it was US$290,000. And there are Oregon Business Energy Tax Credits.
The management-employee loyalty works both ways, with 245 employed on the lumber side and 80 in hardboard. Ms Gibbs said some people work 40 or 45 years before retiring.