Energy Saving Solutions + Energy and Production Efficiency = Better Product Quality & Lower Prices.

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Cook Woods, a Klamath Falls-based, family-owned company mills exotic and domestic woods, and rare hardwoods, into specialty products for use by hobbyists, wood artists and instrument makers.

Sustainability drives every part of the business. Having grown up in national parks as the son of a park ranger, founder Christopher Cook seeks to “have a light foot on the land.” He carries more than 270 species of wood in the showroom, the majority of which are salvaged from logging operations or sourced from around the world. He sees potential in material that otherwise may be discarded, burned, or sold as firewood. 

Managing how his business consumes energy is another guiding factor. “I watch the bottom-line closely, so I look for ways to reduce energy use,” explained Cook.  “When we lower our operating costs, we can offer our product to customers at a lower price, which makes them happy and increases demand.”

Cook’s commitment to investing in energy-saving solutions is shared by other Oregon manufacturers. Umpqua Dairy, Roseburg, and J.H. Baxter & Co., Eugene, also see a direct link between energy efficiency and production efficiency. All three companies work closely with Energy Trust of Oregon to help their facilities reduce energy costs related to lighting, heating, refrigeration, pumps, air compressors and more. Energy Trust services and cash incentives are available for customers served by Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural, Cascade Natural Gas, and Avista.

Efficiency streamlines operations

Efficient equipment often leads to operational efficiency. Cook Woods installed a new dust collection system that saves energy by automatically adjusting motor speed based on the number of dust collectors in use. An older system ran motors at one speed all the time and required employees to manually open and close vents. Automation has improved dust management and made the process simpler for employees. 

The mill’s most recent energy-saving investment is a new vacuum kiln, dramatically increasing their ability to dry wood quickly. Cook has to kiln-dry all the wood that comes into the yard to remove insects and reduce moisture content. His old kiln needed 120 days to dry wood properly, causing an inventory bottleneck. To speed up production, he had to choose between purchasing a second dehumidification kiln or a newer, more costly technology.

“The vacuum kiln is so advanced it requires less energy to dry wood compared to the normal dehumidification kiln,” said Cook. “Plus, we double-insulated the kiln, which increased our energy savings even more than estimated by the manufacturer. In the end, with cash incentives and energy savings, the newer kiln produced very little extra cost for us. We’ve been able to cut drying time from about four months to 14 days, decreasing the load on our electrical system and improving product availability.”

Lighting is often one of the first energy-efficiency upgrades at a manufacturing plant. Newer, energy-efficient technologies save money on energy costs, improve safety and productivity, and result in better product quality. 

Cook’s sawmills have upgraded to LED lighting, which makes the work environment bright and cheery, and amplifies the safety factor for employees. “Many of our processes are still done by hand,” said Cook. “We trim small pieces of wood with sharp blades and need good lighting to avoid mistakes and accidents.” 

To date, Cook has invested in four energy-efficiency projects that have saved the mill more than 114,500 kilowatt hours of energy annually and earned $19,669 in cash incentives from Energy Trust. 

Strategic energy management cuts waste

Serving the forest products industry for four generations, Eugene’s J.H. Baxter & Co., is one of the nation’s oldest wood preserving companies. Customers use their treated wood products for a range of outdoor installations including utility poles, railroad ties, and bridge timbers.

Right now, J.H. Baxter is near completion of a year-long Strategic Energy Management (SEM) project to identify, implement and sustain low and no-cost energy-saving opportunities. Energy Trust provides resources and SEM coaching services to help the company engage employees in changing behaviors and processes and embed those changes in the daily decision-making process. 

SEM has been a huge success at J.H. Baxter, exceeding the company’s goal of saving 3% of its total annual natural gas usage.  

“Once our folks saw how making simple changes can deliver a big impact on monthly results, they understood the power of behavior change,” explained Jace Jones, treating manager, J.H. Baxter. “Everyone bought in to the new way of thinking and it took off from there.”  

Roseburg’s Umpqua Dairy is wrapping up its own SEM initiative. “We started by getting people from across departments to go on a treasure hunt for overlooked energy-saving opportunities,” said John Harvey, director of plant operations, Umpqua. “Because they were assigned to areas different from their usual department, they could see the process—and solutions—through fresh eyes.” 

Umpqua’s team looked for equipment running unnecessarily, and other behavior-related actions. They found big savings by adjusting motors to slower speeds when production is lighter, rather than running them at full speed all day. Staff has become diligent at monitoring and fixing air leaks and shutting equipment off when not in use. 

Employees discovered that by implementing longer ice cream runs they can produce more product more efficiently. They save time with fewer changeovers from one product to another and save energy by keeping equipment running longer, rather than turning it off and on. To date, the SEM improvements have saved more than 324,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. 

“We want to keep the momentum going,” continued Harvey. “Employees understand that the more we save, the more we can produce, which translates into a stronger, healthier company.” 

Using efficiency to save more, do more  

At J.H. Baxter, natural gas-fueled steam is a key component of the wood treatment process. The company uses live steam deployed inside large pressure cylinders to clean the surface of the wood product and eliminate standing water. Natural gas also fires three dry kilns on-site to treat products to customer specifications.  

The company has completed 15 energy-efficiency projects since 2012, including the insulation of tanks and piping, replacement of steam traps, and repair of steam and steam condensate leaks. Another project reduced sooting in the boilers to make them function more efficiently. Their efforts have paid off, saving the company more than 331,000 therms of natural gas annually and an estimated $269,800 in yearly energy costs. Energy Trust has provided more than $112,500 in cash incentives to reduce the upfront cost of the energy-saving improvements. 

“Incentives are a critical piece of our decision-making process,” observed Jones. “We couldn’t make these investments without Energy Trust’s help.” 

To further reduce natural gas consumption, Jones looks for ways to decrease the company’s reliance on steam. The company holds a zero liquid discharge permit, which requires water generated through the treating process to be evaporated on-site, not discharged off-site or to the city sewer. A recent capital investment project replaced the steam-fired evaporator with an evaporative cooling tower, using heat from the treating process to evaporate water without using any steam. 

“Not only do we evaporate the same volume of water, we’re doing so more efficiently and at a significant savings,” explained Jones. 

Energy savings commitment reflects company culture

A third-generation family business, Umpqua Dairy has been producing and distributing premium dairy products since 1931. Using milk from family farms in Southern Oregon, Umpqua takes pride in setting high product standards and staying ahead of industry changes. The manufacturer of milk, ice cream, butter and other products has embraced that same approach to improving energy efficiency in its operations—working with Energy Trust of Oregon on projects since 2003.

“Finding ways to be efficient and streamline costs has been part of our company culture since its early days,” said Umpqua’s Harvey. The company’s sustainability policy underscores that commitment by pledging to reduce its consumption of natural resources and use technology to conserve energy. 

The company’s long list of energy-saving projects has earned more than $223,500 in Energy Trust cash incentives and achieved annual energy cost savings of more than $208,900. $133,270.

“Refrigeration is responsible for most of our energy consumption, from storing products to freezing ice cream. We invest in these projects because that’s where we get the greatest savings.” Harvey continued.

One of Umpqua’s first energy upgrades involved overhauling its ammonia refrigeration system, which could not keep up with expanding demand. Energy Trust helped replace two small compressors with a large energy-efficient model and install a new control system to ensure optimal production temperatures.

When it was time to replace production ice cream freezers, Umpqua turned to Energy Trust for help installing three new high-efficiency freezers that scooped 350,000-kilowatt hours from its annual energy use. Later, a new ice cream mixing room tripled capacity using the latest in energy-efficient equipment and LED lighting.

Lighting has also made an outsized impact on energy use and staff productivity at Umpqua Dairy. Occupancy sensors and new LED technology have been installed in offices and production areas. “When you have good lighting in a manufacturing facility, it’s more inviting, easier to clean, and helps people see better, which makes their job easier,” said Harvey.

Recently, the company earned first place for its Butter Toffee Crunch ice cream at the World Dairy Expo.  Umpqua earned its “best of the best” in the nation award from among more than 1,500 entries submitted throughout North America. 

“Our people love to be competitive,” said Harvey. “If we enter our products in dairy contests, we want to win, and when it comes to energy efficiency, we want to win there too.”

“Every business needs to trim the amount of energy they consume,” Chris Cook observed. “Environmentally, it is a good thing to do, and financially, you lower your operating costs. With these energy-saving investments, our productivity is higher, and we deliver faster turnaround on the product. That’s a win for the environment, a win for the company, and a win for the profit margin.”

Article submitted by: Susan Jowaiszas, Marketing Lead – Energy Programs

 Energy Trust of Oregon

Learn how energy efficiency can improve your business. Changes in equipment, operation, and maintenance practices can optimize plant system operations and deliver significant energy savings. To get started, visit or call 503.202.0576.

Energy Trust of Oregon is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to help utility customers benefit from saving energy and generating renewable energy. Our services, cash incentives and solutions have helped participating customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural, Cascade Natural Gas, and Avista save nearly $3.4 billion on their energy bills. Our work helps keep energy costs as low as possible and builds a sustainable energy future.

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