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Cloverdale Cold Storage puts the freeze on energy costs

Aerial view of the original Cloverdale Cold Storage Ltd. facility.

'I was pleasantly surprised at [BC Hydro's] level of contribution'

When Cloverdale Cold Storage started developing a new plant in 2009, they sought ways to make it as energy efficient as possible.

After all, maintaining minus 30C – one of the coldest temperatures in the industry – requires plenty of energy. What they didn't expect, however, was how much their existing operations would benefit from energy efficiency as well.

"We started to take a look at new technology in lighting," remembers Ian Cameron, Business Development Manager of Cloverdale Cold, which serves the food industry locally and globally, storing everything from bakery products to produce to fish and meat.

"That's when we got keenly interested in making changes to existing facilities too. We were using metal halide lights and their light is kind of yellowish; it's not a very appealing environment for the workers."

Energy studies identify savings

In partnership with BC Hydro, Cloverdale embarked on energy studies not only for two new plants (a fourth facility is under construction), but also for their two existing ones.

"We looked at everything from insulated paneling and lighting through to variable frequency drives and control systems," says Cameron. "There are a number of things that add up to the energy efficiency gained. As you can imagine, it takes quite a bit of energy to keep 65,000 pallet positions frozen."

Which meant quite a bit of savings, too. Retrofits to the existing two buildings are expected to save 1,187,000 kWh of electricity, with a total project cost of $519,600 and a BC Hydro incentive contribution of $281,560.

For the first new construction project, the estimated savings of energy efficient design compared to a base model is 570,000 kWh with an estimated incentive of $103,186. (Calculations are ongoing for the fourth project.)

"Pleasantly surprised" by BC Hydro incentives

"It's the first time that I had been involved with this, so for me almost everything was an 'ahah moment,'" laughs Cameron. "So I was pleasantly surprised at the level of contribution that BC Hydro is able to provide.

"Of course it's still a fairly large capital outlay that's required to gain these kinds of efficiencies, but the incentives that BC Hydro offers certainly improves the ROI and shortens the payback. That was something we were happy to see."

Cameron says the value of the partnership went beyond incentives, however.

"The expertise available through an organization like BC Hydro is very valuable. As an example, on our first project we were looking at a lighting supplier who was specifying lamps that wouldn't have worked in our environment. With their engineering experts, and doing their review of the submissions, BC Hydro noticed that and set us off in a different direction.

"We were thankful because we realized how close we were to making a mistake! Having access to that expertise can really help ensure that you're making the best and the right decisions about how you want to gain those efficiencies."

Positive impact on employees

Despite the significant reductions in energy use, and savings on electricity costs, Cameron says one of the best benefits of the energy efficiency projects has been the impact on employees – the thing that interested him in retrofitting the older facilities in the first place.

"Our employees are thrilled with the new lighting," he says. "The T5HO (T5 high output) fluorescent lights give a really nice light. It's as if that yellow light from the old metal halides drains your energy and tires you out.

"When you're working in a light that's more similar to daylight I think people just feel better about it – it's like starting off in a cave before, and then getting to work outside."

"We really wanted to change all the lighting, and the energy efficiency certainly justifies the cost of doing that," he adds. "But there was certainly more to the decision than that. Now, it's a safer environment, there aren't dark corners anymore, and if there's an issue with product not being where it's supposed to be, it's easier to resolve. When you're working in a minus 30 degree environment, you don't want to be spending any more time in those freezers than you have to."