Sustainability: At Ballard Dairy & Cheese, energy efficiency benefits dairy, environment
By DBC Staff
Changes to propane, lighting and milk cooling systems have resulted in energy, financial and environmental impact savings.
Western dairies continue to create new models for sustainable, successful busineses – and recognition.
Featured previously in DairyBusiness West, DeGroot Family’s Skyridge Farms, Sunnyside, Wash., Prairieland Dairy, Firth, Neb., and McCarty Family Farms, Rexford, Kan., received “Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability Awards” at the second annual national awards program in Washington, D.C. in late April.
In addition, Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese, Gooding, Idaho received the Outstanding Achievement in Energy Efficiency Award; and Unilever, Henderson, Nev., received the Outstanding Dairy Processing & Manufacturing Sustainability Award.
The awards, presented by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, recognize dairy farms for practices delivering outstanding economic, environmental and/or social benefit.
This month, DairyBusiness West concludes a three-month series, recognizing Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese, and Unilever.
In 1995, Steve and Stacie Ballard started their 35-acre dairy in Gooding, Idaho, with their son Travis. In 2004, the family added a cheese facility to process the milk from their Jersey herd. Today, Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese has grown to 110 cows, producing 1.32 million lbs. of milk annually.
To stay competitive, the Ballards recognized they would need to aggressively manage expenses – specifically, energy costs. To achieve their goals, the Ballards explored energy efficiency upgrades and infrastructure changes. They worked with a team, including engineers and contractors, dairy associations, USDA, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Idaho Power Company and their local bank to develop a custom efficiency project.
The project included power phase conversion, automation and controls, improved ventilation, installation of variable frequency drive (VFD) vacuum pumps and high-efficiency modulation electric boilers, in addition to other best practices.
Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese originally used a propane-fired steam boiler system, which was operating at 33% efficiency and consumed approximately 664 million British thermal units (BTUs) per year. The family decided to replace the boiler system with an evacuated tube collector solar thermal supply, heat pump and high-efficiency electric boiler. In making these upgrades, the dairy was able to switch from propane to electric, which resulted in a 50% reduction in fossil fuel use (due to the electric provider’s energy mix).
The new system helped the Ballards achieve a 67% energy savings. Solar thermal now supplies approximately 50% of their heating load. Designed to meet the needs of the dairy as it expands, the hot water system has already resulted in $15,000 in savings and a carbon dioxide reduction of 89,500 lbs.
The dairy originally used a combination of incandescent, T-12 tube, halogen and high-intensity discharge lights. After an energy audit, they upgraded all lighting to energy efficient LED. They also added automatic lighting controls to help capture additional savings.
The switch has resulted in annual energy savings of 35,000 kilowat hours (kWh) and a cost savings of $2,500. And, the Ballards estimate they’ve reduced carbon dioxide output by 5,500 lbs. through this update.
The milk cooling system carried fresh, 100° F milk through a heat exchanger, colloing it to 80° F. From there, it was cooled to 40° F in a chiller.
The new system uses residual 40” F cold water from the heat pump system, pre-cooling the milk to 60° F before it’s sent to the chiller and cooled to 40° F. The Ballards also added a more efficient plate heat exchanger.
The upgrades save an estimated 1,000 gallons of water daily. The family also has achieved significant annual cost savings of $2,000, energy savings of 27,000 kWh, and carbon dioxide savings of 11,500 lbs..
The Ballards’ total project cost was $130,000, with an estimated 5.5-year payback period and a simple return on investment of 18%. Total annual savings from the energy reduction upgrades is $23,700 – more than 10% of the dairy’s overhead. The project also virtually eliminated the dairy’s need for propane, saving approximately $15,000 annually.
The Ballards anticipate the actual payback will be sooner than originally forecast. As their operation expands, they require less overall energy than they would have with their previous system.
The Ballards believe that every farm has some aspect of energy management that can be improved, and – with proper direction and support – all dairies can improve their environmental impact and bottom line.
Unilever plant puts corporate plan into local action
At Unilever, sustainability is a corporate-wide way of doing business. In 2010, Unilever unveiled its Sustainable Living Plan, with goals to reduce three outputs by 50% by 2020: greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water use associated with consumer use of their products; and waste associated with disposal of their products.
Unilever’s worldwide plan was implemented locally at an ice cream plant in Henderson, Nev. The plant manufactures ice cream products under brand names including Ben & Jerry’s®, Breyers®, Good Humor®, Klondike® and Popsicle® for distribution throughout North America. In operation for more than 30 years, it has more than 450 employees.
Plant managers followed a measured approach: allocate resources; identify potential projects; follow through on implementation; and verify post-installation results. The return on investment went beyond economic and environmental impacts, to improving quality of work for employees.
The plant enlisted energy experts to review the facility’s major energy users to develop specific projects to reduce energy. The plant implemented new, automated sequencing for its refrigeration and compressed air systems, and addressed opportunities to improve energy use for water heating systems.
The systems upgrades implemented by Unilever have increased refrigeration system efficiency by 13.5%, reduced compressed air system energy use by more than 20%, and recovered heat equal to one-sixth of the facility’s 2009 natural gas use rate. These upgrades reduced electricity use by 13% and natural gas use by 16%. And, water consumption was cut by more than 1.1 million gallons per year.
Waste water system improvements
Unilever used a combination of wastewater system improvements, including removing waste before it enters the water system.
The plant’s water system improvements reduced the strain on local water resources, improved the quality of wastewater returned to the municipal water treatment facility, and provided solid wastes for animal feed. They also resulted in improved air quality around the plant’s wastewater pond and in the nearby residential neighborhood.
Unilever installed a utility monitoring system for electric, gas, water and production, with the capability to track key performance indicators for future project identification and further improvements. A utility monitoring system tracked how new practices directly impacted energy use in specific areas. That information was then used to track additional benefits, such as reductions in maintenance costs. The monitoring system could pinpoint detailed variations in energy and water use so each practice could be evaluated.
The Henderson team learned several key lessons during these projects:
• Energy savings provide a positive return for the company when implemented successfully.
• Energy-saving projects involve many areas of the plant and are most successful with high-level support and a company champion who overcomes hurdles as they arise.
• Sustainability efforts have the best success when concrete measurements are taken and compared with relevant benchmarks.
These key lessons have been documented and shared with other dairy industry businesses through public programs, internal best practice communications and third-party contractors. The plant has future plans to maintain, improve and build on its commitment to suitability in order to reach its 2020 goals.
• For more information on the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards, the winners and the best practices in place at their operations, visit USDairy.com/Sustainability/Awards.