MADAWASKA, Maine — With the economy still unstable, many industries are having a difficult time surviving. That is especially true of the paper industry, and Twin Rivers Paper has not been immune to financial losses over the past few years.
But company officials are hoping to avoid such losses in the future now that they have secured four grants totaling $1.3 million from Efficiency Maine to finance a number of energy efficiency projects. The company is adding $1.4 million of its own money to complete the work.
Representatives of Twin Rivers and Efficiency Maine announced Wednesday that the energy savings from the projects would lower operating costs and provide increased job security for the mill’s 650 employees.
Two of the grants are being used to fund heat recovery projects, reducing the mill’s fossil fuel consumption by about 1 million gallons of oil per year, enough to heat nearly 1,000 homes. By capturing waste steam from the papermaking process and reusing it to heat process water and the mill, the company expects to save ap-proximately $2 million in operating costs annually. Grant funds for the two heat recovery projects come from federal stimulus funds that are administered by Efficiency Maine, an independent statewide agency created to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.
The two remaining grants are funding upgrades to other equipment in the facility that will reduce electrical consumption by 6 million kilowatt-hours each year for the next 10 years. The energy savings are equivalent to the electric consumption of 950 homes each year. Funding for the equipment updates was made possible by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
“This is one step in many we have taken to keep economically viable,” said Phil Nadeau, engineering manager at Twin Rivers. “We have looked at every aspect of our energy consumption and we want to reinvent ourselves as a low-cost specialty paper manufacturer.”
Ian Burnes, program manager at Efficiency Maine, said the agency has worked extensively with Aroostook County businesses but had never worked with Twin Rivers before.
The heat recovery projects are complete and the other equipment upgrades will begin next summer and should be completed in the fall.
Nadeau said he is optimistic about the benefits of the energy efficiency projects.
“I think that this is going to do a lot in terms of cost reduction,” he said Wednesday. “We will consider doing anything that we can possibly do to stay viable. I think that our employees are cautiously optimistic about our future because they see that we are taking steps to stay competitive. I think they believe that if we keep competitive and we keep doing the right thing, then we will survive.”