Ford shines new light on energy efficiency at 18 facilities

Tags: energy management

Through a series of lighting retrofits at 18 of its U.S. parts distribution facilities, one major U.S. automaker shows how protecting the environment and sound business practices can go hand-in-hand.

The opportunity to improve the efficiency of its facilities’ overhead lighting systems became apparent after Ford Motor Company engaged energy services company New England Energy Management to conduct an audit of its 227,000-square-foot Windsor Locks, Conn., High Velocity Center (HVC). In a subsequent report to facility managers at Ford, New England Energy proposed replacing 650 existing HID lighting fixtures (400-watt and 1000-watt metal halide and pulse-start metal halide lamps) with more energy-efficient linear fluorescent lighting from GE Consumer & Industrial, coupled with motion sensors that could reduce light output (and energy usage) 50 percent at times of lower activity in the aisles of the warehouse.

HID can’t hide from fluorescent efficiency
“Following the audit, we knew that in this application, the right fluorescent lighting system could outperform the existing HID,” said Scott Hinson, president of New England Energy Management, an energy services company.

Hinson’s firm designed and submitted the efficiency project to Connecticut Light & Power’s (CL&P) RFP Program on behalf of Ford. CL&P awarded a 75 percent incentive based on the high benefit-to-cost ratio score.

The energy savings of the HID-to-fluorescent retrofit at the Hartford-area Windsor Locks HVC exceeded expectations, achieving a seven-month payback using CL&P's incentive rebate. Hinson says yearly energy savings tied to the Windsor Locks lighting retrofit will exceed $78,000 (651,283 kilowatt hours).

Optimum team and solution
For the new lighting system, New England Energy turned to longtime partner and fixture manufacturer Optimum Lighting.

“We have a history of collaboration,” said Shona Holden, director of sales and marketing, Optimum Lighting. “In this case, we were involved very early in discussions about how a specially designed Optimum fixture could be outfitted with GE’s latest program-start fluorescent lamps and ballasts to outperform the existing HID lighting. We engineered a fixture that’s perfect for this sort of application.”

New England Energy installed six-lamp Optimum fixtures fitted with F32T8/XL/HL linear fluorescent lamps and UltraStart electronic ballasts from GE Consumer & Industrial.

UltraStart program-start ballasts match the high efficiency, energy savings and performance benefits of instant-start ballasts, while protecting lamp life in frequently switched applications (five or more switches per day).

"GE’s F32T8/XL/HL lamp-UltraStart ballast combination is an ideal system to use with occupancy sensors or other electronic controls that help companies optimize energy savings," said Ron Paduchak, linear fluorescent product manager, GE Consumer & Industrial. "Our ultimate goal with Ford and every other GE customer is to help stop wasteful spending on energy.”

GE initiated a similar lighting retrofit that targeted nearly 150 of its facilities in 2006. Much of that retrofit involved T8 fluorescent lamps replacing HID lamps to cut energy consumption at each facility by as much as 50 percent.

And then there were 18
The impressive results in Windsor Locks opened the door to Ford’s Detroit headquarters for New England Energy’s Hinson. Ford and New England Energy signed a performance-based energy services agreement to retrofit an additional 17 High Velocity Centers with the energy-efficient lighting system from Optimum and GE Consumer & Industrial.

New England Energy will replace a total of nearly 12,000 fixtures with approximately 96,000 GE F32T8/XL/HL 5000K linear fluorescent lamps and 16,000 GE UltraStart ballasts at the additional 17 HVC facilities. The lighting system installation is expected to be complete before the end of 2007. Overall energy savings each year are expected to reach 20 million kWh.

“Environmentally, reducing energy consumption for Ford by more than 2 megawatts is huge. There’s no cleaner power than the power you don’t use,” said Hinson.

According to Paduchak, the energy saving move significantly improves the quality of light and could help decrease pick rate errors. With the new GE T8 lamps, the color-rendering index (CRI) improves to 85 vs. 65 CRI for the HID lamps being replaced. The GE T8 lamps also offer superior light levels, maintaining over 90 percent of lumens over the life of the lamp. The HID lamps could lose as much as 60 percent of light output over the life of the lamp.

Cooling off, period
Because the distribution facilities don’t have air conditioning, an added bonus is cooler operation of the fluorescent lamps compared with the HID lamps. The change is expected to help create a more comfortable working environment.

The move to the new lighting system standardizes lighting in the distribution facilities for easier maintenance. With six lamps in each fixture independently circuited to the ballast, if one lamp fails the others stay lit. As a result, in this example, the fixture doesn’t need maintained right away because just 18 percent of the light is lost.

The GE UltraStart ballasts also regulate the output current to each lamp if one fails, so the remaining lamps aren’t forced to operate at a higher current. A single ballast can adapt automatically to any voltage from 108 volts to 305 volts.

GE’s Paduchak stated that GE’s Multi-Voltage Control (MVC) capability “simplifies installation and helps eliminate guesswork at each job site.” He added that MVC helps the ballast to protect against arcing and the damage it can cause in lamps, ballasts and sockets.

Said Hinson, “Our work creates a turnkey offering for Ford with no upfront costs, and tremendous environmental and cost-saving benefits. It’s really the complete lighting system that makes this move by Ford so advantageous.”

Ford’s success with its new fluorescent lighting systems serves as a testament for other manufacturers considering lighting retrofits. It proves that keeping an eye on the environment doesn’t necessarily cut at the bottom line — it can build on it.

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