SmallBiz Energy Makeover
Going green results in major savings
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“We like to think that we run a respectable, ethical business,” says
In 2008, Tori Richard became the first manufacturer and retailer in Hawaii to install a commercial photovoltaic system, which covers 94 percent of the company’s power needs. Before the upgrades, the company’s electricity bill ran about $10,000 a month. Today, it’s about $3,000, which Feldman says goes mostly toward infrastructure and demand charges from Hawaiian Electric Co. to run its PV system.
“Everything we’ve done has an ROI,” Feldman says. “To be honest, the big push for us to get more energy efficient had to do with financials. We wanted to reduce our operating costs, which we have significantly. Each phase of the project had at least a three-year ROI.”
Tori Richard’s lighting retrofit from fluorescent lights to new energy-efficient ballasts and fixtures reduced its electrical load by about 30 percent. Feldman says the most successful aspect of the project in terms of magnitude was the installation of PV, because it significantly offset the company’s electrical costs.
“The state and federal governments offer great tax incentives to install solar, so businesses should take advantage of those offers now, before they sunset, because they won’t last forever,” Feldman says.
As far as ease of installation and lack of complexity: “Changing out our old lighting has made a huge difference for us,” he says. “I really can’t understand why we didn’t do it sooner.”
Karpowicz says Tori Richard’s energy upgrades were accomplished in phases over three years. Before it installed the PV system in the final phase of the project, the company had reduced energy usage by about 50 percent.
“PV should always be the last phase, because you want to minimize the size of the PV system and you do that by lowering your usage,” Karpowicz says.
“If you don’t do all these other smaller things first, you’re over-sizing your PV system,” Feldman adds. “That’s a common mistake and I think there are somewhat unscrupulous PV people in town that try to sell you systems without telling you the correct process.”
One of the biggest challenges the company faced was figuring out a financing plan for the PV system.
“We ultimately decided to lease the system from Bank of Hawaii, so the credits are built into the capitalized lease cost,” Feldman says. That way, Bank of Hawaii gets the credits, but Tori Richard will own the system at the end of the lease, which prevented the company from having to shell out $1.1 million for the system on the front end and then wait for the tax credits to kick in.
Feldman says the best advice he can offer to other small businesses looking to make energy upgrades is to think in terms of small, incremental improvements so the tasks are manageable. He says doing research, hiring a good consultant, going through a competitive bid process and always looking at ROI are also important.
“Don’t undergo changes that require a major shift in your corporate culture, otherwise they won’t last and won’t be effective,” Feldman cautions. “As much as possible, we chose projects that required the least amount of human effort to save energy.
Visionaries: Josh Feldman, president and CEO, and Robert Karpowicz, operations manager
PV Contractor: Sunetric
Area renovated: 22,000 square feet
Total cost: $1.5 million
Duration: Three years, in phases
•Replace all interior lighting and ballasts to more energy-efficient ones.
•Install new energy-efficient air-conditioning system; desynchronize AC load so all compressors are not running at the same time to reduce demand peaks.
•Install motion sensors for lighting in bathrooms and offices.
•Apply window coating with reflective tint to reduce heat entering the building.
•Apply polymer roof coating that is reflective and insulating.
•Change computer policies to reduce overnight and weekend consumption.
•Install 700-panel PV system.
The final installation in Tori Richard’s energy makeover was a
If you can’t afford a major renovation, start with small projects that will reduce your energy use and get you on the right track. Duane Ashimine, executive vice president and chief technology officer for Energy Industries, suggests every business follow these five steps to become more energy efficient.
• Encourage energy-saving: Turn off unneeded lights and fix leaky pipes.
• Get an energy audit: Develop a energy roadmap that will improve your bottom line, reduce consumption and lower your carbon-based impact on the environment. Upgrades can be made down the road or in phases, but at least you’ll have a plan.
• Consider a lighting retrofit: This is often noninvasive and simple to install, and provides a high ROI.
• Target heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems: They can consume up to 60 percent of your power, so it’s worthwhile to invest in efficiency.
• Look at your water or steam heating: The right solar system can save you lots of money.
Ashimine says Energy Industries helped First Hawaiian Bank and Hawaiian Telcom cut monthly power use at their head offices by 130,000-kilowatt hours – a monthly savings of $30,000 to $40,000 per company. “Under our hybrid-energy programs, we generally reduce monthly consumption by 20 to 30 percent through energy efficiency and another 15 to 20 percent through PV energy,” he says.
See It on TV
Watch Blue Planet Foundation’s one-hour Energy Makeover special on:
• Tues., Oct. 12 at 7:00 p.m. on KGMB
• Thurs., Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. on KHNL.
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