SierraPine Composite Solutions Success Story

OR_Sierra_Pine_0183_325x237.jpgSierraPine has realized significant energy savings from operations and maintenance changes at its Medford facility. Wayne Ralph, SierraPine electrical supervisor, meets with Pacific Power’s Christina Kruger.

SierraPine Composite Solutions, a leading manufacturer of innovative and environmentally superior medium-density fiberboard and particleboard, Medford, knows about reducing waste. The company’s product line revolves around combining recycled wood content with low-formaldehyde adhesives to produce sustainable building products. As explained by Wayne Ralph, SierraPine’s electrical supervisor, “We’re good at using raw materials wisely so there’s very little waste.”

Although SierraPine had participated in capital energy-saving projects, company personnel were skeptical about finding much energy waste in the operations and maintenance of plant equipment. That changed when the Medford manufacturer participated in Energy Trust of Oregon’s Strategic Energy Management initiative, which shows companies how simple behavioral changes and no- or low-cost operations and maintenance improvements can deliver significant and persistent savings. “Strategic Energy Management helped us set aside time to give energy efficiency more attention,” said Ralph. “Doing that paid off by reducing our annual energy costs by $588,700.”

SierraPine’s employees worked closely with industrial energy experts from Energy Trust for 11 months, receiving training and tools and developing long-term skills. Together they walked through all areas of the facility to examine equipment, review operating schedules and procedures, and look for energy-saving opportunities. The resulting detailed list of potential operation and maintenance improvements helped SierraPine prioritize ongoing energy-saving efforts.

Simple changes on refiner plates save $400,000

Strategic Energy Management helped SierraPine uncover significant energy savings by improving operation of its two 6,000-horsepower refiners. The large refiner plates, which require replacement about every 10 days, are at the heart of the company’s production, churning and grinding wood chips for the manufacturing process. Because of a vendor issue, SierraPine had switched to a different plate design than what they had used previously. Unbeknownst to plant personnel, the modified plates consumed millions of unnecessary kilowatt hours annually.

As a result of Strategic Energy Management, the company switched to a new plate design and also increased the plates’ water injection rate, cutting annual energy costs by an estimated $400,000 with no impact on product quality. “Had it not been for Strategic Energy Management, we might not have seen the enormous penalty of using the previous design,” said Ralph.

SierraPine further reduced energy use by shutting down a 350-horsepower hog system it no longer needed, adjusting equipment schedules to minimize idle operation and refining its fiber quality testing so it could serve as an indicator of energy use.

Employee engagement helps ensure long-term savings

SierraPine involved all employees in Strategic Energy Management by hosting energy round table meetings, providing training relevant to specific jobs and launching a contest for the best energy program slogan: “Energy is deserving of conserving.”

Early on, the company adopted and communicated a corporate energy policy and a first-year energy-savings goal of 5 percent. Energy Trust helped SierraPine establish an energy team with representatives from throughout the facility who meet regularly to discuss, implement and review energy-efficiency strategies. As the team’s Energy Champion, Ralph coordinated and monitored the team’s efforts.

Energy Trust provides tools and cash incentives

Energy Trust provided SierraPine with a cash incentive of $226,000 to help the company achieve its goals. SierraPine also received web-based tools to track energy use in real-time, enabling employees to monitor results and quickly act on unexplained spikes in energy use.

“The technical assistance and cash incentives provided by Energy Trust for Strategic Energy Management not only benefit SierraPine, but the entire state of Oregon and our environment,” said Ralph.

SierraPine proudly displays its progress from Strategic Energy Management on a board in the plant’s lunchroom, where employees can see how their efforts have reduced plant energy use by 12 percent, translating to a whopping 11.3 million kilowatt hours annually.

For details on energy-efficiency incentives and services for Oregon businesses, contact your account manager, call Energy Trust at 1-866-368-7878 or visit