By Tux Turkel, staff writer
KENNEBUNK – Medical researchers rely on the molded polystyrene laboratory plates coming off the line at the Corning Inc. manufacturing plant here, so they have to be free of cracks and scratches. New lighting recently installed in the factory makes it easier for workers to spot those flaws, but there’s another benefit.
The high-efficiency fluorescent lamps chosen by Corning, combined with other improvements, have cut electricity use for lighting by roughly 40 percent.
It’s part of Corning’s corporate goal to increase productivity by up to 30 percent within five years while using the same amount of energy as in 2005.
Corning’s experience here was highlighted Tuesday as an example of how Maine businesses can save money and cut energy use with the help of the state’s Efficiency Maine program. Nearly 1,000 companies have tapped into the no-cost, four-year-old program, which offers up to $50,000 a year in rebates for lighting and appliance upgrades.
The Corning plant represents the third-largest project aided by Efficiency Maine. The other two are Jasper Wyman & Son in Milbridge and Sysco Food Services in Westbrook.
Along with lighting improvements, the Corning plant is in the midst of three other projects, focused on cooling water and running pumps and motors more efficiently. The work will qualify for $59,000 in cash incentives from Efficiency Maine. The investments are expected to pay for themselves in less than three years and cut total electric usage by 1.8 million kilowatt hours.
The company declined to say how much power it uses a year or how much money it will save in electricity costs.
New York-based Corning may be best known for its Pyrex heat-resistant bakeware, but today it’s more heavily involved in making glass for laptop computers and LCD television screens. The company has 26,000 employees worldwide, working in market segments including display and environmental technologies, telecommunications and life sciences. The Kennebunk plant, which has 300 workers, is part of the life sciences division.
Corning started getting worried a couple of years ago about the long-term costs of energy and managing the so-called greenhouse gas emissions that scientists associate with climate change, among other issues. These concerns led the company to undertake a global energy management plan. Corning also figured that reducing energy and greenhouse gas production will make it more competitive.
In Kennebunk, the company ripped out 35-year-old lighting, replacing 1,630 fixtures. The results are dramatic on the factory floor. Light output has nearly doubled, according to David Blunt, the facility manager, who pointed out the improvements Tuesday during a brief media tour.
The lights also run cooler, so there’s less need for air conditioning in the summer.
In the warehouse, occupancy sensors turn on the lights only when someone enters. These lights used to blaze 24/7 because they took time to warm up.
In another part of the manufacturing floor, high-efficiency lights were lowered closer to the workstations.
“We can use fewer fixtures,” Blunt said. “We don’t need as much lighting anymore.”>/p>
Corning’s Kennebunk plant got some of its energy-saving ideas by sending engineers to a Building Operator Certification training course run by Efficiency Maine. Kurt Adams, chair of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, said these programs are filling fast, as more companies look for ways to trim energy bills. New technology, typified by the latest generation of high-efficiency fluorescent lights, produce more light output for less electricity.
“Technology has really defined a new standard, and that’s higher performance for reduced cost,” he said.