Van Wingerden International Inc. has been in the plant nursery business for over 35 years. As a result of the company’s long term vision the facility has grown to include over 37 acres of greenhouses which are utilized for the production of bedding plants, poinsettias, young plants and flowering promotional crops which are ultimately sold through home improvement stores, grocery and mass-market outlets in the southeast. Like many commercial/manufacturing businesses, energy is a substantial part of the production cost. As a result the company strives to invest in different areas of the business with the ultimate goal of reducing the facility’s total energy use. Over the years these investments have come in the way of energy curtains, smart climate control computers and electric boilers which have all helped the company achieve strategic reductions in total energy use while simultaneously improving the quality and variety of the plants produced by the company.
In 2010, the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development worked with President and General Manager, Bert Lemkes to identify and obtain a $310,000 grant offered through the State Energy Office, a division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce. This competitive grant opportunity was developed to assist private commercial and industrial business to pursue technologies which could help each businesses become more competitive while also reducing individual energy consumption. The awarded grant has allowed the company to purchase and install a hot water storage tank which has enabled Van Wingerden International the ability to achieve a 15-20% reduction in energy use. According to Lemkes “the project will ultimately reduce the running of boilers at high fire, thereby improving efficiency in fuel use, in addition to reducing boiler cycling and purging cycles.”
To fully leverage this investment the operation of this storage tank and system is being fully integrated with existing computer systems designed to maximize energy usage as well as an internal education process for existing employees with the goal of uncovering further energy reduction strategies. Once operational the company expects to achieve a savings of 6.7 billion BTUs with the new system.