East Kansas Agri-Energy (EKAE) was formed on October 15, 2001 by a steering committee of farmers and businesspeople in Eastern Kansas, along with the support of the Agriculture Sub-Committee of the Anderson County Economic Development (ACED) organization. The objective was to build a value-added ethanol production facility in the area.
Today, EKAE now converts more than 16 million bushels of corn a year into more than 45 million gallons of fuel grade ethanol. Along the way, the plant produces more than 200,000 tons of distiller grains, in both wet and dry form, for livestock producers every year.
Kansas Manufacturing Solutions (KMS), formerly MAMTC, helped EKAE audit their facility and successfully apply for a grant under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which provides grant funding to small to medium sized rural businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades. Their needs were very specific, and KMS was able to create a solution that suited all of their needs.
Previously, the plant had been illuminated by all high-pressure sodium (HPS) lighting. While HPS lighting is very energy efficient, it has two drawbacks. First, the color rendition capabilities of the light source are poor; the light from the fixtures looks very yellow and it’s difficult to distinguish colors in the plant. Second, the lights have a very long re-strike time, so they cannot be used with occupancy sensors, which was an important feature EKAE needed in their new lighting fixtures.
The plant runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, on nights and weekends only very small crew staffs the plant to keep things running due to the plant being highly automated. Therefore, a huge percentage of the plant was lit during these times, even though no one was working in those areas.
The change to LED lights dramatically improved the color quality of the lighting providing a striking change in the overall look of the plant, and allowed the use of an occupancy sensor on virtually every fixture as well. This feature allows only those areas of the plant being used during the nights and weekends to be lit, rather than the whole plant.
Overall, there were 11 types of light fixtures in the plant that needed to be replaced, totaling 364 fixtures all together.
The plant management decided to use their in-house maintenance electricians to do the installation themselves, greatly saving on the cost when compared to using contract electricians. This took longer than bringing in a big crew, as it was done as other work allowed. For this reason, the project was done in four phases over a 12 month period, which started in September 2015 and work was completed in October 2016.
Using their own employees allowed EKAE to bring the project in far under the budget of $264,800, with the total cost to purchase all lights was $215,221. Through the REAP grant, 25% of that cost was covered.
During the application process, KMS staff gather all the necessary materials from the company in order to compile the application. Then, the grant package is assembled by including the energy audit information, technical reports, and all of the many applicable USDA forms. The completed application package is presented to the company for their review and to obtain signatures. After the application package is finalized with the company, a KMS staff member then typically hand delivers it to one of the local field offices.
East Kansas Agri-Energy was very pleased with the overall outcomes of working with KMS in securing a REAP grant and the work involved with its energy efficiency lighting upgrade. Doug Sommers, Chief of Operations at EKAE, commented, “We were really glad to have KMS’s help with the REAP grant application. There was no way that we would have pursued the grant ourselves because the process and paperwork seemed too complicated.”