As the Northwest’s premier grain exporter, United Grain Corporation’s Vancouver Export Terminal handles an annual capacity of five million tons of wheat, feed grains and oil seeds. That means the lights are on 24/7 as crews work around the clock to load and unload grain from rail cars, barges and ships.
Over the past year, United Grain implemented a lighting retrofit at its grain elevators along Vancouver’s waterfront, replacing outdated high pressure sodium lamps with energy efficient LEDs. Thanks to the upgrade, United Grain expects to save over one million kilowatt hours of electricity annually. Cash incentives from Clark Public Utilities covered nearly 50 percent of the project’s cost.
Led by staff electricians Randy Rose and Paul Huskey, the motivation behind the project was to reduce growing maintenance and repair costs. They solved that problem and more – now they’re improving safety, saving energy, generating better light and creating more pleasant working conditions.
Crews work day, night and weekend shifts, so the company relies on good, dependable lighting for worker safety. According to Tim Wright, corporate maintenance and operations manager, the old lights were casting a yellow light, constantly buzzing and producing too much heat.
With facilities ranging as tall as 360 feet high to tunnels as deep as 60 feet, many of the fixtures are inaccessible or hard to reach. “Sometimes lights would be out and it would take a while before we could get to it,” said Huskey. “We spent a lot of time replacing bulbs and repairing fixtures.”
Grain elevators are filled with sensitive, flammable material, which requires fixtures with explosion-proof glass. Available in few energy efficient options, these fixtures are also expensive. While electricians kept existing fixtures in good working order, they continued to search for viable alternatives. With help from Clark Public Utilities and Northwest Trade Ally Network, United Grain found a brand of compatible, screw-in LED bulb and at one quarter of the price of a new fixture.
Implemented over four phases, the company upgraded over 1,300 bulbs. “By switching to LED, we have a product that will last for years rather than months,” said Rose.
“The rebates motivated us to reap the project benefits now, instead of doing it over 10 years,” said Wright. “The energy savings go directly to saving dollars, which means there’s more for future expansion. We’re exploring other energy-saving projects now because of this upgrade. This is just the first step.”