Harnessing the Wind
Teichert Aggregates turned to the wind when it sought a ‘green’ source for saving money on energy.
After the 2008 economic downturn, aggregate producers across the United States began looking for ways to weather the storm, and an important part of that was to cut costs. Energy has always been one of the largest expenses at aggregate operations, and the price of energy continues to rise, despite the downturn in the economy. Teichert Aggregates addressed the issue of high energy costs by looking at an alternative energy source — the wind.
“We consume a significant amount of energy,” says Paul Mercurio, engineering and quality assurance manager at Teichert Aggregates, “and we’re always looking for ways to reduce our energy costs. At the same time, we’re trying to find greener ways to source our energy.”
When the company decided that wind might be the answer for supplying power at its Vernalis Plant, which was located in a favorable wind area, it turned to Foundation Windpower, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based provider of on-site, wind-turbine electricity generation, about the concept of installing a wind turbine on site. “Foundation Windpower put together a proposal and gave us some pricing,” Mercurio explains. “We did some calculations, and it looked feasible, so we entered into a power purchase agreement with them.”
Teichert doesn’t own the wind turbine, however. A group of investors put up the money for it, and Teichert provided the site and agreed to purchase the generated power at a favorable rate. The investors are responsible for everything that pertains to the wind turbine, including maintenance.
The wind turbine came online in the summer of 2010 and was expected to provide about 25 percent of the plant’s power needs, depending on wind speed and what was running in the plant. “It’s providing more energy than we hoped for,” Mercurio says. “If you look at March (2012), the plant was not running extensively, and the wind turbine provided over 70 percent of the power we consumed. But this is just a snapshot of one month.”
The original expectation was that Vernalis Plant would consume almost all of the energy the wind turbine produced. “We haven’t been able to consume as much of the energy as we would have liked, because we haven’t been running as much due to the slow economy,” Mercurio says. “If economics were substantially better, we probably would. And I think we will going forward.”
Teichert is very positive about the wind turbine. “There were some teething pains in the very beginning, getting it dialed in for the initial start-up,” Mercurio admits. “They had a couple little gremlins, but they resolved them, and it has been performing well since then. I was worried about it being really noisy, and there was talk about problems with wind or ‘shadowing,’ but we haven’t had any complaints or any issues with those, or with birds. It has all been good.”
“We consume a significant amount of energy, and we’re always looking for ways to reduce our energy costs. At the same time, we’re trying to find greener ways to source our energy.”
– Paul Mercurio, Teichert Aggregates
Not only has the wind turbine generated power for the plant, it has generated good relationships with people in the community as well. “It has become a landmark,” Mercurio says. “When I tell people where the plant is located and use the term ‘the wind turbine on I-5,’ everyone knows exactly where that is. When we were putting in a freeway exchange project recently, top representatives from Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office, the county board of supervisors, and Caltrans [California Department of Transportation] were in attendance and commented on the wind turbine while we were talking about the interchange. It definitely brings some public relations value.”
This was Teichert’s first wind turbine, but, because wind energy was so successful at its Vernalis Plant, it probably won’t be the last. The company would like to harness the wind at more of its operations. Teichert looked into putting a wind turbine at its Woodland facility near Sacramento, but it was too close to the airport, and the wind turbine would have been in the flight path, so it wasn’t an option.
“We continue to research additional sites to expand our wind power program,” Mercurio says. “We keep our eyes open and do the calculations each time there’s a new opportunity in a viable wind area.”
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