Manufacturers Leverage Best Practices from Better Plants Initiative

April 16, 2015
The Better Buildings program and its partners have saved 320 trillion BTUs and the equivalent of $1.7 billion over four years.

As part of its Better Buildings program, which focuses on an energy efficiency program through LEED certification and Energy Star initiatives, the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) introduced its Better Plants initiative in 2011 to help manufacturers understand energy savings activities for industrial applications that include better power management, lighting and overall better plant efficiencies.

The voluntary program—with about 150 companies and 2,300 manufacturing facilities taking part—aims for a 20 percent energy reduction for participating plants and industrial buildings by 2020. The program leans heavily on a collaborative approach, where companies release their energy performance data to the public, and program administrators begin an energy profile for the participating company.

Cummins joined the DoE’s Better Plants program to realize greater efficiencies and cost savings at its multiple U.S. manufacturing plants. The automotive engine manufacturer also partnered with Georgia Tech to participate in the DoE’s second pilot for this energy management standard, called Superior Energy Performer (SEP).

“Cummins seemed to be a little bit ahead of the curve on some of these energy projects we had already completed, such as compressed air projects and some lighting projects,” says Mark VanDam, facilities engineer at Cummins’ plant in Rocky Mount, N.C. “The SEP program is giving us the tools to improve our performance even more.”

In November 2014, the DoE recognized Cummins’ Jamestown, N.Y., engine plant for reducing its energy usage and for the installation of a 2 MW rooftop solar power system, which includes 7,200 solar panels. “The rooftop solar array is tied directly to the company’s main substation with its own metering, and is integrated into the building automation systemmanagement,” says David Burlee, plant engineering leader at the Jamestown facility.

Cummins is waiting on paperwork to be processed with the local power company before the panels can start producing electricity. “The projection is that the solar panels will produce about 5 percent of our plant power,” Burlee says.

A recent report from the DoE shows the Better Buildings program and its partners have saved 320 trillion BTUs and the equivalent of $1.7 billion over four years. Five companies achieved their 20 percent reduction targets in 2013, with 11 more reaching the goal last year.

For more in-depth information, read "How Building Energy Management Can Help Your Factory."