Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

July 14, 2013

Save energy, save money

TRAVERSE CITY — Making snow takes a lot of electricity.

So does lighting a car dealership or cooling and heating hospital rooms all day and night. Simply put, energy costs are among business' chief expenses.

“We use about 6 million kilowatt hours per year, and our whole complex uses about 300,000 gallons of propane a year,” said Jim MacInnes, president and co-owner of Crystal Mountain resort, which has implemented a comprehensive energy efficiency program because it saves money and helps the environment.

“Our (annual) energy bill is about 1.3 million … and I think it could be at least 50 percent higher without energy efficiency,” MacInnes said. “There are significant savings.”

Stephen Tongue, vice president of facilities at Munson Medical Center, said the hospital spends about $3.5 million a year on energy. The figure includes $2.6 million for electricity and another $800,000 for natural gas. The hospital joined the Energy Star program in December 2008. The hospital now consumes about 3 percent less than the mean of energy consumption of 110 other hospitals in the Midwest.

“Because of the economic pressures hospitals face, we are looking at energy efficiency to reduce costs, and it’s also an important part of sustainability,” Tongue said. “It’s a win-win for the community.”

But officials with large commercial electric users say energy efficiency has to be a critical component of a company’s overall business strategy in order to save money. Munson officials identified 20 projects for the 2009-2010 calendar year and spent about $335,000 to implement them. Annual energy savings were estimated at $367,000, and saved the hospital a huge amount of money over time.

Munson Engineer Tom Beatty said the hospital carried out lighting retrofits and installed variable frequency drives for chiller plants. They’ve even installed devices that turn off lighting on vending machines when no one is standing before them. Beatty said using technology that monitors the speed of chilling pumps saved significant chunks of money, as has the installation of energy-saving light bulbs throughout much of Munson's one-million square feet of space.

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