Richmond facility's compressed air, lighting upgrades cut electricity bill by more than 11 per cent

Image showing upgraded lighting in Wärtsilä's Richmond facility
Wärtsilä shop floor with updated lighting, a switch from old metal halide fixtures to efficient fluorescent lighting.

Variable speed drive compressor part of air system overhaul

When your company's goal is to help customers maximize their environmental and economic performance, energy efficiency just makes sense.

That's why Wärtsilä worked with BC Hydro to complete two energy efficiency upgrades at its Richmond facility. Wärtsilä is a leading solutions and services provider in the marine and land based power industry; the Richmond facility is focused on servicing and remanufacturing of components for customers around the world.

"About five years ago we certified to ISO 14001, the environmental standard," says Phil Houston, quality manager for Wärtsilä Canada. "We also have a corporate requirement to reduce our energy consumption. So those both triggered us to look at what we do here and how we could improve it."

Houston contacted BC Hydro to learn about energy efficiency options and project incentives. That led to an energy audit and the identification of two energy efficiency opportunities: lighting and compressed air.

Energy efficiency incentive provides more than $34,000 of upgrade cost

"We changed out the air system completely," says Houston. "We installed a whole new compressor with a variable speed drive, and new air storage. The result is in the pudding, as they say."

The compressed air efficiency upgrade qualified for an incentive of $34,789 and was projected to save 182,000 kWh of energy per year, an 11 per cent reduction in the plant's average electricity bill. Houston says with ups and downs in business volume it's hard to be certain, but he believes the outcome has been even better than projected.

"I don't think we would have ever recognized that level of reductions if we had just kept the old system running. It definitely has an impact," he says. The upgrade process also included a thorough leak test for the compressed air system to help minimize lost energy.

"We were a lot better off on leaks than I thought we would be," says Houston. "But I think it's like phantom power — it's one of those areas that people don't realize how costly it can be. If you plug the leaks in your system, it can have a significant impact."

Houston says the new air system has yielded benefits beyond energy savings as well. "We have spray-welding, we have sandblasting. When all those were going at the same time, our old system was straining and sometimes we wouldn't have sufficient capacity. We haven't run into that issue since."

Lighting upgrade improved working conditions

Houston says some areas of Wärtsilä's Richmond plant get good natural light. But the lathe bay was identified in the energy audit as a place that needed more fixtures.

The project qualified for an incentive of $1,748 to upgrade old metal halide fixtures to efficient fluorescent lighting. Although it was a relatively small project, Houston says it too offered non-financial benefits.

"It's a definite improvement for visibility, and that has an impact on everything from the guys' being able to see and make proper measurements, to mistakes not being made. It's easier to work so they're not straining as much. And we're not bringing in portable floodlights or job lamps, or not as many. It's definitely an improvement."

Houston says he recommends investing in energy efficiency. "You need to make the initial contact with BC Hydro and then take a good look at your operations," he says. "People really need to take advantage of programs like this — purely bottom line if nothing else."

Read more about compressed air efficiency