United Corrstack normally keeps a low profile in their mill in Reading, PA, quietly making recycled corrugated fluting paper for use in cardboard boxes. But the company recently stepped into the spotlight with a coveted Manufacturing Achievement Award from Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) at the 2009 i xchange awards ceremony.
United Corrstack has been building a planned energy solution called Evergreen Community Power, an energy-efficient boiler and steam generator that is fueled from biomass materials like wood waste to provide steam and electricity to the manufacturing facility.
The award is presented annually to the company that best exemplifies achievement in the manufacturing arena. United Corrstack (UCI) won for its planned energy solution called Evergreen Community Power, an energy-efficient boiler and steam generator that is fueled from biomass materials like wood waste to provide steam and electricity to the manufacturing facility.
“When we started getting approvals for the boiler, we were nervous because we were planning to put this huge power plant in the middle of the city,” says David Stauffer, vice president and general manager at UCI. “But our plans were very well-received. This award is a nice recognition of our efforts. Ben Franklin Technology Partners is one of those groups that everyone has a positive image of, so when you get recognition from someone like that, it means a lot more.”
Evergreen Community Power, a $135 million project, is the result of collaboration between UCI, BFTP and the Electrotechnology Applications Center (ETAC) at Northampton Community College. UCI worked with BFTP and ETAC to evaluate options to allow higher output at their facility and then to assess boiler fuel alternatives.
“One of the biggest questions we had in developing Evergreen Community Power was what the fuel would be,” says Stauffer. “The research we conducted with BFTP and ETAC assured us that there was plenty of biomass fuel for us to combust.”
Improving the Air—and the Economy—in Reading
UCI’s Evergreen Community Power plant will benefit the Reading area and beyond for a number of reasons. First, the technology used for combustion of the biomass material is a unique process called a “circulating fluidized bed.” The energy produced through this process is highly efficient from both a thermal and emissions standpoint, Stauffer explains. “We are about twice as efficient as a typical coal-burning power generation unit would be,” he says.
Thanks to reduced emissions, the new plant will improve air quality. “For every megawatt of electricity we make, that electricity will be displacing a fossil fuel unit somewhere,” Stauffer says. “When we fire up our 25 megawatts, 25 megawatts of coal fire goes down, which helps clean up the air.”
The plant will benefit the city of Reading economically as well. In addition to the 80 jobs United Corrstack is preserving on-site, they are adding 25 jobs on the plant site, and 50 additional jobs for the people who provide and ship the fuel. “Plus, most of our spending will take place in Berks County, which will help stimulate local economic development,” Stauffer adds.
The Right Technical Resources
United Corrstack first partnered with BFTP in 2004; since then, UCI has worked together twice with BFTP and ETAC. The first project, in which BFTP invested $5,000, involved evaluating options for a more efficient way to dry paper. The second project successfully resulted in the study of boiler fuel alternatives for Evergreen Community Power. “Ben Franklin paid for half of the study ($7,500), and we paid for the other half,” Stauffer says.
Stauffer credits BFTP regional manager Connie Faylor as a critical partner in getting Evergreen Community Power off the ground by introducing United Corrstack to Northampton Community College’s ETAC.
“When Connie first approached us, she tried to find every possible connection, and thank goodness she was persistent,” Stauffer says. “We are a mature company, so sometimes it’s difficult to find the right technical resources. As you can see, we obviously benefited tremendously.”