Great Lakes Cold Storage

Fast Facts

Industry: Cold Storage
Locations: Solon, OH and Cranberry Township, PA
Total Savings: $250,000+
Primary Savings Strategy: Peak demand management
DR Program: PJM Emergency Load Response
Annual Demand Response Payments: $33,000

The Big Picture

Great Lakes Cold Storage provides frozen and refrigerated warehousing and distribution services from its two facilities located in Solon, Ohio and Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. The combined 8.6 million cubic feet of modern refrigerated space is centrally located between the Midwest and East coast markets, making Great Lakes a valuable partner for customers requiring fast, efficient, and cost-effective cold storage services. Like most companies, Great Lakes started working with EnerNOC for one simple reason: “We were looking for cost savings,” says Executive Vice President, Joe Smith, who manages day-to-day operations at the Cranberry Township facility.

Not All Kilowatts Are Created Equal

Keeping 8.6 million cubic feet of space and its contents cold or frozen is an energy-intensive and expensive endeavor for Great Lakes. Powering its refrigeration and lighting systems is one of the company’s largest operating expenses. But the Great Lakes team knows that all kilowatts aren’t created equal, and that flexibility in when you use energy can have a major impact on how much you are paying each month. The company deployed EnerNOC’s energy intelligence software in 2010, which gave the team the visibility into their energy consumption that it needed to make better energy management decisions and to adjust operations to drive dollars to the bottom line. The company focused primarily on two strategies to monetize their operational flexibility: 1) participating in demand response (DR), and 2) addressing peak demand charges.

Getting Started with Demand Response

Although Great Lakes is an energy intensive operation, they are also excellent candidates for demand response, which pays participants to make temporary reductions in energy consumption when the grid is under stress. Because cold storage facilities are typically well insulated and able to maintain cold temperatures even with refrigeration equipment turned off for several hours, these facilities can cut back on consumption without negatively impacting its operations or the safety and quality of the items in storage.

EnerNOC worked with Great Lakes to design an energy reduction plan that would maximize their payment opportunity. Each facility reduces lighting by 80%, turns off or adjusts refrigeration equipment, and shuts down other loads during demand response dispatches. These actions temporarily reduce electric consumption by 700 kilowatts at the Cranberry Township site and 900 kilowatts at the Solon facility. The combined 1.6 megawatt (MW) reduction doesn’t affect food or other inventory in storage, and enables Great Lakes to generate approximately $33,000 in annual payments from EnerNOC.

For both Solon and Cranberry Township, demand response dispatches are simple. Each facility shuts down all non-essential electricity consumption, yet operations continue normally. Trucks load and unload without interruption, and customer orders are unaffected.

During dispatches, the facilities maintain inventory quality and continue to fulfill customer orders without interruption. “We’re not handcuffed with any loss of work when we go into our response,” says Smith. “And we know that if we need to start up again, we have that option.”

When Using More Means Spending Less

A few months after being enabled with EnerNOC’s software, Great Lakes hired Phil Watson as its new chief engineer. The 35-year cold storage and refrigeration veteran knew immediately that he had to address the $55,000 per month electricity bill at the Solon facility.

Watson eagerly embraced EnerNOC’s software as a key tool to enable better energy management. “Once I found the graphs, I started watching them closely,” explains Watson.

The real-time energy usage data accessible through EnerNOC gave Watson insight into not just the facilities’ overall energy consumption, but also the actual cost of his operational decisions. Based on the information he was seeing in the software, Watson began running the facility 24/7 - a decision that ultimately meant Great Lakes consumed more kilowatt hours of electricity, but dramatically smoothed out the facility’s load curve and reduced expensive peaks. This somewhat counter-intuitive approach was a direct departure from his predecessor’s approach, but armed with the data in EnerNOC’s software, one that quickly gained traction. “That decision stirred up a big thing. Everybody here just knew the power bill was going to be ungodly,” recalls Watson.

Optimizing for Efficiency

Backed by a supportive CEO, Watson continued his focus on operational adjustments to manage energy costs. He changed the defrost times in the building and shut down equipment that didn’t necessarily need to be running, all the while carefully watching the effects by logging into EnerNOC. By mid-2011, Great Lakes had reduced Solon’s monthly bill from $55,000 to $50,000 per month, and that was just the beginning.

Watson continued to dig deeper, adjusting the operation of the refrigeration system so that they used only what was needed to keep facility temperatures at targeted levels and verifying that lights weren’t being left on at night. Through continuous monitoring the Great Lakes team realized that even small changes, like keeping doors closed, had a big impact.

“With the helpful demand graphs in EnerNOC’s software, all you need to do is keep an eye on it to find where your problems are,” Watson adds.

At the end of 2011, the monthly bill was down to $45,000, and at the end of 2012 it was down to $32,000.

“There would have been no way without EnerNOC to see what was going on. I mean, I could have guessed at a whole lot of things and crossed my fingers,” Watson adds, “but honestly, I can’t imagine running this place without it.”

Director of Operations Tom Johnson works closely with Watson to implement operational changes at the Solon facility. “Previously, I hadn’t seen firsthand the results of energy management,” says Johnson. “What Phil has done to level out the power usage is surprising and impressive. We’ve seen significant savings in energy costs, there is no question we are greener, and on top of that our refrigeration equipment is not as taxed as it used to be.” Watson’s work in reducing these expenses, says CEO Pat Gorbett, was crucial to supporting the company’s bottom line during a challenging stretch for Great Lakes.

With the Solon facility running as Watson wants it, the next step for the Great Lakes team is to replicate the approach to finding and correcting inefficiencies at the Cranberry Township facility.

The Benefits

New Insights & Savings Opportunities

By logging into EnerNOC, Watson can watch his facilities’ energy consumption in real time on a regular basis and especially during demand response dispatches. “I can sit at home on my iPad and tell exactly what’s happening in the building,” he says.

Easy access to and intuitive interaction with consumption data provides new insights into ongoing energy use and helps target costly inefficiencies. Using EnerNOC, Watson shares that he has cut more than a quarter of a million dollars off the Solon facility’s annual electric bill.

New Source of Funding

Great Lakes uses the savings it achieves from better energy management to advance other energy management projects at its facilities, such as a lighting upgrade that is expected to deliver significant costs savings by replacing over 300 lighting fixtures with the latest energy efficient technology.

Gorbett is also looking forward to the replacement of the Solon facility’s 25-year-old doors in 2013. “I know we’re losing a ton of energy out the old doors. The new doors will go a long way toward saving even more energy,” he adds.

Verifying ROI

Once the lighting projects, door replacements and other projects are complete, Great Lakes will be able to quantify the economic and energy savings impact of these capital improvement projects easily and precisely using EnerNOC’s software.

Community Support

Through their partnership with EnerNOC, Great Lakes helps support and protect the businesses and residents where its facilities are located. “When there is an extreme need for power, we’re able to reduce what we use,” says Gorbett. “In turn, we’re helping the community because more power is available for the general population. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

An Ongoing Partnership

With EnerNOC, Great Lakes gains an ongoing energy management partner with wide-ranging expertise, including a suite of powerful applications that address key energy management challenges.

The Future

Leveraging its experience with EnerNOC’s energy intelligence software, Great Lakes is committed to expanding its energy efficiency achievements. With several initiatives ready for implementation, including bringing the Cranberry Township facility up to the Solon facility’s operating standards, Great Lakes is well on its way to achieving even greater energy savings.