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Energy Audit Helps Small Company Stay Competitive

January 12, 2010 - 12:22pm


In tough economic times, employers across the country are looking for ways to save money and avoid layoffs. By improving energy efficiency, which also helps the environment and ultimately improves our country’s security, companies can cut costs — not jobs.

West Linn Paper Company in West Linn, Ore., achieves an annual cost savings of about $380,000 thanks to improvements made at the recommendation of the Energy Now through a 2006 Save Energy Now assessment. The savings opportunities identified for the company’s paper mill were centered on its steam system.

After West Linn fine-tuned equipment and made repairs to some areas of the mill, the company continued its energy-efficiency commitment and has since been able to shut down one of its boilers for eight months out of each year.

“We can support the mill with only the one more-efficient boiler, and we’ve been able to reduce emissions and reuse excess steam that was going to waste before,” Bob Hart, engineering manager, says. “I can safely say we’ve gone beyond the predictions on savings originally estimated by DOE. Since then, we’ve also increased our production from 797 tons of paper each day to 859 tons.”

West Linn, with 250 employees, is a small paper company in comparison to some industry giants, but the company is a proud organization that does lots to keep itself competitive, including its commitment to energy efficiency. During the economic downturn, West Linn emerged out of the recession with higher yields than ever before.

“This is an area we’ve been diligent in, and it certainly paid off for us to this point,” Bob says. “Energy prices fluctuate, and I think we can predict with confidence that the cost of fossil fuels will rise over time, so energy efficiency is a very important thing.”

This paper company plans to keep finding ways to stretch its dollars through energy-efficiency improvements.

“It’s really been a continuous improvement process regarding our energy conservation projects here,” Bob says. “The DOE assessment was very valuable in that it helped not only identify some areas we could work on, but also it adds credibility to the argument for continuation of these kinds of projects at the mill. As a smaller, older mill, this is the way we’ve been able to stay out there competing with the big guys.”

Since the inception of West Linn Paper Company in 1997, management has strived for energy efficiency. About 70 percent of all projects undertaken at the mill are energy-efficiency measures.