Film extruder and converter Roplast Industries Inc. of Oroville, Calif., has installed a $1.6 million cogeneration power system with strong state and local support.
The city provided $700,000 in a redevelopment loan, and the state's utility-administered self-generation energy program should pay an incentive of about $450,000.
Two units of General Electric Co. engineered and installed the high-efficiency, 1-megawatt generator, which harvests waste heat from jacket water, lubricating oil and an intercooler. An absorption chiller exchanges the heat to cool Roplast's extrusion, conversion and printing equipment. The system began operating Oct. 1.
Roplast expects energy to cost 4-6 cents per kilowatt hour. The firm has paid public utility rates averaging 10 cents in the winter and 13.7 cents in the summer and peaking at around 24 cents. Industrial energy rates in California increased exponentially last year and Roplast's monthly power bills jumped from $30,000 to $100,000.
Since competition in the film market precluded passing along the costs, President Robert Bateman looked closely at relocating. In particular, he explored moving about 85 miles to Redding, Calif., which has a lower-cost municipal power system.
Instead, Bateman obtained help from economic development corporations in Oroville and Butte County, and the Oroville Enterprise Zone.
Simple in concept, the project was complex in execution ``compared to putting in an extruder,'' Bateman said by telephone.
Roplast's power-in-a-box installation can produce power and heat more efficiently than the largest generators, said Joe Heinzmann, an application engineer in Concord, Calif., with GE Industrial Systems. GE Power Systems' distributed power unit supplied a natural-gas-fired internal-combustion engine from Jenbacher AG of Jenbach, Austria, and other equipment.
Roplast can be reimbursed $1 per watt or 30 percent of most project costs, once the firm obtains permits and the system passes a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. inspection, said Sara Birmingham, senior project manager of the San Francisco-based utility's self-generation incentive program.
Roplast remains connected to the grid for demand beyond the plant's capacity.
Bateman and others formed Roplast in 1990. The operation employs 150 and had sales of $23 million for the fiscal year ended Oct. 30, 2001. About one-half of the business involves department-store and grocery bags, with the remainder in industrial markets.