As energy usage enters the 21st century, the trend in technology is towards blending higher efficiency equipment with "green" Earth-conscious energy-savings. This trend, paired with increasing government regulations that require businesses to practice energy responsibility, means companies have more to think about when carrying out routine replacement of aging equipment. In some cases, the cost for such upgrades can make some business owners pause, or even balk, in their plans to move forward. But fortunately for many businesses in southern Indiana, Dubois REC and other local rural electric cooperatives, in a partnership with Hoosier Energy, have created a monetary rebate program available to qualifying businesses interested in such upgrades.
Brad Merkley, Operations Manager and third generation butcher for Merkley and Sons Quality Meats of Jasper, Indiana, is going forward with several upgrades in his family’s food processing business thanks for the REC rebate program.
In 2012, the company swapped out 250 fluorescent lights throughout the plant and replaced them with more energy efficient LEDs. Merkley said, "Initially, our advisors wanted to replace the fixtures as well as the lights, which would have added hundreds of dollars to the project. We resisted this because the fixtures were new in 1993. We researched a little further and found new energy-efficient bulbs retrofitted to work with our fixtures." A second, "piecemeal" project for the company is swapping out the lighting within their glass retail display case with energy-saving bulbs.
But last fall, the company went forward with perhaps the most significant upgrade when Merkley replaced all seven meat smokers that operate in their four smokehouses. "The smokers were old and outdated, and were all powered by a sawdust generator," Merkley explained. The new smokers are not only more energy efficient, but they allow the company to produce more meat while still using less electricity. The smoker upgrade was completed in September 2013, just in time for preparation of the holiday season’s high demand for the company’s products.
Merkley said the rebate from Hoosier Energy made it much easier for the company to make the investment for the improvements. "We already knew the need, and we'd been investigating the most affordable options to complete these projects. We have other, similar upgrade projects we're looking into for next year. The rebate return not only eased the financial burden of this project, but we're going to reinvest the money to help fund the next upgrade."
The company's contracted electrician for the lighting projects put Merkley in touch with Renee Campbell of Hoosier Energy, who works closely with the Dubois REC's key accounts. Merkley recalled, "She processed the initial paperwork to secure a retroactive rebate on the lighting. She was also hands-on in suggesting new meat smokers. The new units should help us cut back on our energy expenditures by over 50% going forward. She was a piece of cake to deal with."
Campbell, who works with key accounts in the southwestern segment of Indiana and a portion of Illinois, notes that food processing is a thriving industry in the region. Campbell said, "Their smoke generator upgrade qualified Merkley for a custom rebate, a reimbursement for a company seeking to secure an upgraded piece of equipment unique to their industry that improves a process and results in greater energy savings." Campbell projected that Merkley will recoup its lighting investments in energy savings in about five years, and that the upgraded smoking units will be recouped between five and eight years.
“Merkley Meat Packing is a well-known and very well respected local company. We are glad, that with Hoosier Energy’s help, we can help them make the best lighting and energy efficiency choices,” Dubois REC General Manager Don Book commented regarding the unique rebates. Book says that Merkley Meats supplies locally-owned grocery stores and restaurants in the community where he lives and shops.
As Merkley and Son's Quality Meats enters 2014, it has plans to upgrade the company's refrigeration units. "I'm looking forward to helping Merkley find further energy savings so they remain a satisfied customer," said Campbell.
Merkley and Sons Quality Meats was founded by Brad Merkley's grandfather and uncle in Jasper in 1954. A full service meat processing company and local institution, Merkley offers quality meat and signature recipes through their retail shop and wholesale product throughout southern Indiana. The company's bratwurst was honored by Indiana during the "Super 46 Sandwich Contest" when the state hosted the Super Bowl in 2012. Find them at 3994 W. 180 N, Jasper IN, 47546, 812-482-7020, and on Facebook.Local electric cooperatives has been offering rebates on energy efficiency upgrades through Hoosier Energy since 2009.