CVEC snags stimulus money for energy upgrade

By Holly Jessen | December 29, 2011

Chippewa Valley Ethanol Plant Co. LLLP is one of 36 Minnesota projects that will receive grant money for energy upgrades thanks to American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant money. The 46 MMgy Benson, Minn., facility will receive $500,000 to help pay for a $2 million project to recover waste heat from the plant’s regenerative thermal oxidizer.

A total of $4.1 million in funding has been dedicated to the one-time energy upgrade grant program, administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources. In all, the 36 facilities will realize more than $3 million in energy savings a year. The goal of the program was to make energy efficiency improvements to commercial, industrial, and nonprofit facilities in the state. “Energy savings projects like these are good for business, good for our environment, and good for our economy, said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “This targeted investment of one-time funds will pay for itself over and over again. It has helped dozens of facilities dramatically reduce their energy consumption and realize millions of dollars in ongoing cost savings.”

By installing a heat exchanger, CVEC can capture heat that is typically exhausted into the atmosphere and use it to produce heat for the ethanol production process, reducing the amount of natural gas it needs to use. The process will save the ethanol plant an estimated $700,000 a year, meaning the cost of installation will have a three-year payback.

Other examples of cost-savings include $200,000 in estimated energy cost reductions at St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood, Minn., and $50,000 in savings at Ameristeel U.S. Inc. in Duluth, Minn. “Commercial buildings and industrial facilities like these consume about half of our state’s energy,” Rothman said. “That’s why it makes sense to target large buildings. Targeted retrofits using one-time investments deliver the biggest bang for our buck. And every dollar a business or nonprofit saves is a dollar they can be using to expand their operations, hire new workers, and get our economy moving again.”

All direct improvement projects required matching funds. In all, the projects will save about 440,000 MMBtu per year, which adds up to enough energy to heat 8,150 homes a year. On average, the projects will have a four-year payback. Grant winners included both for-profit and nonprofit groups that have plans for or have completed upgrades to lighting, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems and controls and to industrial processes.