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Southwestern Ontario pork processor uses energy savings to help expand its business

Walnut Hill Farm, a pork processor in Gads Hill, Ontario, is using an estimated 40 percent reduction in electricity costs to help pay for the expansion of its business to $1.3 million from $750,000.

“The electrical savings we gained by investing in more energy-efficient equipment will be used to pay for the additional electricity we need to expand the business,” says John Koch, who, with his wife Julieanne, owns and operates the Perth County business. “Electricity bills will be about the same as before, but we’ve added 40 percent more refrigeration. We’ll be paying the same amount, but getting more bang for our buck.”

Walnut Hill Farm produces a wide range of specialized pork products for its own customers, as well as for Perth Pork Products.

To meet growing customer demand for more specialty pork products, Walnut Hill Farm increased the number of its refrigeration rooms to 10 from six.

The electricity savings will come from a new high-efficiency refrigeration system that Walnut Hill added in 2012, which has more efficient compressors, evaporators and insulated panels throughout the facility.

The old refrigeration system, while effective in controlling and maintaining proper cooling, was two to three generations behind the current technology and inefficient, Mr. Koch says. It used seven separate compressors (158,000 Btu/h) to provide cooling to refrigeration rooms throughout the facility.

“It was costly to operate. Electricity is one of the farm’s highest fixed costs. Anywhere you can save on hydro is a plus,” he says.

The older compressors were replaced by three high-efficiency compressors (150,000 Btu/h) that are linked together and controlled by temperature monitors in each refrigeration room. The installation of polyurethane-insulated panels throughout the facility to maintain cooling levels means the compressors are not used as frequently.

Additional energy was saved by installing more efficient evaporation fans.

With the retrofit, energy usage is estimated to fall to 61,000 kWh from 103,000 kWh for the original six refrigeration rooms, a savings of 42,000 kWh.

Walnut Hill Farm’s investment in the new refrigeration system is about $175,000. The business will also receive a saveONenergy RETROFIT PROGRAM incentive of $5,600 from Hydro One.

The RETROFIT PROGRAM is one of several saveONenergy FOR BUSINESS incentive programs available to commercial farm operations when they invest in energyefficient equipment and upgrades that produce energy savings. The saveONenergy programs are delivered by local electricity utilities such as Hydro One across Ontario.
 
Hydro One is responsible for auditing electricity usage, verifying the effectiveness of the new energy-efficient equipment and working with customers in choosing their most energy-efficient options.

“The RETROFIT PROGRAM is designed to help people install energy-efficient equipment that is built for their needs, and reduce electrical usage,” says David Forgione, conservation analyst with Hydro One.

“The RETROFIT PROGRAM incentive from Hydro One helps contribute to the bottom line,” Mr. Koch says.

One of the electricity-saving measures that Walnut Hill now uses is capturing the heat generated by its compressors to heat water for cleaning and washing.

Previously, Mr. Koch spent up to $1,000 a month on propane for heating. “Our propane costs have dropped over 70 percent,” he says. “In the meal industry, it’s not what you make but what you save.”

 

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