Doug Petersen of Watsonville Coast Produce knows he’s helping save the planet, and that’s a good thing, he says. But in the eyes of his co-owners, changes that are afoot at the company never would have passed muster if they weren’t also saving a lot of cash.
The fresh food wholesaler is picking away at its $16,000 per month PG&E bill by upgrading old 300 light bulbs and fixtures to more energy efficient models both inside and outside the company’s Kearney Street warehouse just west of downtown Watsonville.
By taking advantage of a free program aimed at helping businesses and homeowners reduce energy, the company is going to save an estimated $24,400 per year in energy costs.
“The primary reason we’re doing this is all about economics: there aren’t too many ways to cut that much out of our expenses without cutting jobs,” said Petersen.
The company ships produce to schools, hospitals, grocery stores and restaurants from the San Francisco Bay area to King City.
Other local businesses that have jumped on the energy efficiency bandwagon include Annieglass, Berry Chill and the old Wrigley building in Santa Cruz.
Charles Perkins of Aptos-based Lumenature, a private contractor in charge of the conversions, said the public benefit of such efforts is twofold. “We don’t have to build more power plants as rapidly, and we’re slowing down how much carbon gets introduced into the environment,” Perkins said.
The upgrades will keep 125,000 pounds of heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere, said Brian Kimball of RightLights, a Santa Cruz-based nonprofit that visits local businesses to help improve their energy efficiency.
The organization offers free energy audits, which look at a business’s total energy use and suggest steps to cut it.
After an inspection of Watsonville Coast Produce’s lighting system, RightLights informed Petersen that $45,000 of immediate changes would result in energy savings that would take only 16 months to pay for itself in lower energy bills.
“There aren’t too many investments where you make your money back that quickly,” said Petersen, who oversees operations at the company.
Total out-of-pocket expenses for Watsonville Coast Produce were cut by $13,243, thanks to a rebate paid for by PG&E ratepayers and reflected in monthly bills as “public goods charge.”
Even though the 43,000-square-foot warehouse, built in 1999, is relatively new, lighting technology has come a long way since then.
The plan calls for replacing yellow-colored high-pressure sodium floodlights on the outside of the building with metal halide bulbs. Changes inside the warehouse have delighted a few of the company’s 95 workers as the sickly glow of the metal halide lamps were replaced with fluorescents. The bulbs were welcomed for having more warmth and less flicker.
Darren Nix of RightLights said new fluorescent light technology makes the glow easier on the eyes than models made just a few years ago.
“Employees say the quality of the light is much better,” Nix said. “They’re even getting fewer headaches.”
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(Published in 10/20/07 edition)