Bright Energy Solutions

Minn. Utility Helps Customers Find The Right Fit

The right lighting fixtures can reduce energy use and boost the bottom line for businesses. In fact, lighting can account for 35-40 percent of the electricity used in commercial businesses, and energy efficient lights can reduce energy consumption by 30-50 percent or more.

When the Schwan Food Company, which is headquartered in Marshall, Minn., wanted to retrofit the lighting fixtures used in its warehouse-style freezers, it called upon its local municipal electric utility--Marshall Municipal Utilities (MMU), an MRES member.

During a recent compressed-air study for Schwans conducted by MRES and MU, Schwan's senior project manager inquired about other possible energy savings measures for the company. Schwans was particularly interested in more efficient lighting for their freezers, which could provide an opportunity for dual savings; reduced energy for lighting; and a reduced cooling demand due to wasted heat of the existing lighting fixtures.

Schwan's freezers feature ceiling heights of 25-35 feet, operate at temperatures down to 30 degrees before zero, and are lit 24 hours a day, seven days a week. MMU Energy Services Coordinator Mark Antony reviewed several options, including light-emitting diode (LED) fixutres, fluorescent fixtures, pulse-start high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps, and occupancy sensors. Finally, Antony found a product that could potentially meet the frozen food company's needs. While surfing the Internet for solutions, Antony located a California company that offered a lighting product that was close to meeting Schwan's lighting requirements. The manufacturer featured a T5 fluorescent fixture that operated in freezer conditions of 18 degrees below zero--not quite low enough to meet Schwan's freezer specifications.

Determined to find a solution, the manufacturer made a few modifications to its fixture, and after a few additional changes, a T5 lighting fixture was developed that now worked in temperatures down to 32 degrees below zero. According to Schwan's the new lights can be shut off when the plant is closed, and quickly turn on when needed. They also last longer than HID lighting in freezer conditions. Since then, the company switched out almost all of its HID fixtures with the T5s.

In addition to the $113,000 annual savings on electricity through reduced lighting wattage and space cooling needs, Schwan's also took advantage of MMU's Commercial Lighting Rebate Program.