Industrial Blow Molder Goes Solar
Solar panels plus lithium battery storage cut peak-load charges that plague many manufacturers.
Agri-Industrial Plastics Co., an industrial blow molder in Fairfield, Iowa, has invested in solar energy generation and storage to help reduce costs and manage expensive electrical peaks. AIP (agriindustrialplastics.com) operates out of a 340,000-ft2 plant with 27 extrusion blow molding lines running 24 hr a day during the week. “These are huge utility bills,” says company president Lori Schaefer-Wheaton, daughter of the founder. AIP specializes in barrier non-automotive fuel tanks, but also custom molds for a variety of industries from playground equipment to medical and hospital equipment (see May ’17 feature). Its average weekday power load is 2500 to 3000 kW, which can drop as low as 100 kW on weekends when the plant is not busy.
An array of 1345 solar panels at Agri-Industrial Plastics, plus lithium battery storage, will save 4-5% of overall energy use and cut peak load by 6%.
Like many manufacturers, AIP pays demand charges based on peak power load. Such charges can amount to 30-70% of an average user’s bill, according to Ideal Energy Inc. of Fairfield (idealenergysolar.com). Companies like AIP can cut those costs through a peak-shaving strategy, says Ideal Energy. To accomplish that, Ideal Energy installed at AIP earlier this year a 517-kW array of 1345 solar panels on a South-facing roof of the plant. This is accompanied by a 430-kW Tesla Powerwall lithium-ion battery energy-storage system with artificially intelligent controls that automatically discharges at times of peak demand to avoid or reduce costly demand changes. The result has been a monthly reduction of peak load by 6% and 4-5% of overall energy use. This system will save AIP an average of $42,477/yr, and net metering will send excess energy back to the grid during weekend shutdowns.
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