Tools enable energy savings throughout Owens Corning

U.S. Department of Energy's Industrial Technologies Program

Through a combination of technical assistance, tools and training provided by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Industrial Technologies Program (ITP), Owens Corning has achieved significant energy savings across its operations. Energy efficiency measures implemented at its Santa Clara, Calif., plant alone have resulted in significant annual savings – and the company did not stop there. Owens Corning took the knowledge and know-how acquired through its work with ITP and pursued energy efficiency projects on its own. Using DOE software tools, the company conducted a plant-wide energy assessment at one of its fiberglass insulation facilities, which identified energy-savings opportunities that, when fully implemented, will reduce the plant’s total energy intensity by 12 percent.

Headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, Owens Corning is a leading global producer of residential and commercial building materials, glass-fiber reinforcements and engineered materials for composite systems. A Fortune 500 Company for 56 consecutive years, Owens Corning is committed to driving sustainability by delivering solutions, transforming markets and enhancing lives. Founded in 1938, Owens Corning is a market-leading innovator of glass-fiber technology, with sales of $4.8 billion in 2009 and approximately 16,000 employees in 28 countries on five continents.

Owens Corning is a company that takes its commitment to energy efficiency very seriously. Each of the company’s manufacturing facilities has an appointed “energy leader” who is responsible for the efficiency of the plant’s process operations. Energy leaders collaborate with their counterparts at other plants to share ideas and best practices for saving energy and deploying new tools and methodologies to reduce energy use, as well as work closely with local utilities and vendors to implement energy-savings ideas.

Since 2007, Owens Corning has worked closely with DOE in its drive to improve efficiency. The partnership has proved to be incredibly successful and mutually beneficial. The company has taken full advantage of the technical assistance, expertise, and tools offered by ITP to achieve significant savings. A prime example of Owens Corning’s energy efficiency efforts is its Santa Clara plant.

Achieving Significant Savings in Santa Clara
Built in 1949, the Owens Corning Santa Clara facility was the first industrial plant in the United States designed specifically to manufacture insulation. Today, the plant employs 300 people and produces approximately 250 million pounds of insulation annually. Because the plant is served by two large electric furnaces, electricity consumption is significant. The plant is also served by several pumping and fan systems, as well as two compressed air systems. Improving the efficiency of such systems, of which Owens Corning has many, can generate noteworthy energy-savings opportunities.

In 2007, a DOE Energy Expert performed an energy assessment on the Santa Clara plant’s pumping systems. The Energy Expert used DOE’s Pumping System Assessment Tool (PSAT) to identify several opportunities for reducing pumping system energy use, including consistent operation of the most efficient pumps, retrofitting inefficient pumps, replacing valves, and installing variable speed drives. The combined annual energy savings for pump-related improvements was estimated at more than $100,000. Subsequently, additional assessments were conducted on the plant’s compressed air and fan systems using the respective DOE software tools – the Fan System Assessment Tool (FSAT) and AIRMaster+. The assessments led to the implementation of several energy efficient upgrades, including the installation of variable frequency drives on fans and upgrading to a larger compressor.

Initially, some of the recommendations that were identified during the assessments were too costly to qualify for immediate project financing – the implementation costs were too high to meet the company’s established three-year return on investment requirement. However, financial incentives provided by local utility company, Silicon Valley Power (SVP), enabled Owens Corning to pursue energy-saving measures that were generated from the assessments. SVP leveraged its Customer Directed Rebate program, awarding the Santa Clara facility approximately $250,000 in rebates.

The recommendations implemented at the Santa Clara plant resulted in aggregate annual energy cost savings of about $250,000. With $250,000 in incentives from SVP and implementation costs, the Santa Clara projects yielded a 1.3-year simple payback period.

Applying a Successful Methodology
Large industrial companies like Owens Corning often have multiple facilities that manufacture the same product. These similar facilities provide an excellent opportunity to replicate ITP’s model for identifying and pursuing energy-savings opportunities. Since receiving its initial energy assessment in 2007, Owens Corning has applied the technical expertise, tools, and training provided by ITP to pursue additional energy efficiency efforts on its own, without direct assistance from DOE.

In 2009, the company conducted a plant-wide energy assessment at one of its fiberglass insulation plants. Plant personnel evaluated the facility’s fan, pumping, compressed air, and process heating systems using DOE software tools – FSAT, PSAT, AirMaster+ and the Process Heating Assessment Tool. The assessment resulted in a number of identified improvement opportunities that, when fully implemented, will result in a 12 percent reduction in the plant’s total energy use.

The sustainability projects across Owens Corning’s operations have yielded valuable findings related to energy efficiency project planning and implementation, and have allowed the company to achieve substantial energy and cost savings. Leveraging the technical assistance, tools and resources supplied by ITP not only helped Owens Corning identify efficiency improvement opportunities, but also provided the company with the technical expertise and know-how to replicate similar projects without direct support from DOE. The success Owens Corning has achieved on its own serves as an encouraging example for other energy-conscience companies looking to become more efficient.

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