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In the United States, the industrial sector accounts for about one-third of the country’s total energy consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. On a global scale, this number grows to more than half, with the industrial sector consuming 54 percent of the world’s total delivered energy.

As one of the largest energy consumers, industrial facilities have significant opportunities to leverage energy efficiency incentives from their utilities. Ameren Illinois’ Energy Efficiency Program, which is administered by Leidos, offers its industrial customers incentives for a variety of projects — including lighting, HVAC, steam traps, variable frequency drives (VFDs), and compressed air. These incentives quickly add up, and one Ameren Illinois customer was able to realize nearly $300,000 in annual savings by installing VFDs using the utility’s incentive program.

Pacific Ethanol’s Pekin Wet Mill on the east bank of the Illinois River was running 2,000 motors in its 650,000 square-foot facility. Typically, motors are designed to either run full speed or be shut off. In contrast, VFDs ramp up and down as necessary to match the output needed. The software in the drive unit couples to the motor and determines when and how much to ramp up or down based upon the configuration of the VFD. The ability to modulate the motor to the most effective speed and duration can result in significant savings.

“If a motor needs more power, then the VFD provides it; but if you’re going ‘downhill’ and need less power, the VFD reduces the speed of the motor,” says Scott Schultz, Leidos’ Engineering Technical Review Lead on the project. “The motor is not constantly running at 100 percent and wasting energy.”

Pacific Ethanol targeted VFD projects with payback periods of one year or less, so they focused on 12 motors ranging from 75 to 400 horsepower. By modifying just those 12 motors, Pacific Ethanol reduced its annual electrical use by more than 4.2 million kilowatt-hours per year — or $298,228 in annual savings. To help fund the improvements, Ameren Illinois provided more than $170,000 in incentives, cutting Pacific Ethanol’s project costs by more than half.

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Leidos designs, implements, and manages performance-based energy efficiency and demand-side management programs across the U.S., from Hawaii to New York. Learn more about innovative approaches to energy efficiency programs here

Steve Klemm is the marketing director for an award-winning energy efficiency program in Illinois that serves residential, commercial, and industrial customers. In his role, Steve focuses on delivering effective marketing strategies through the use of innovative concepts, consistent branding, and impactful engagement tactics across both traditional and digital channels. His business acumen and prior experience as a small business owner provides valuable insight when developing strategic direction for program initiatives. Steve earned an MBA from Bradley University and B.S. in finance from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.