Waupaca Foundry wins sustainability awards

AFS Corporate Member Waupaca Foundry won a national award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Plants program, which recognizes manufacturers for creating and implementing industrial energy and water efficiency projects, as well as renewable energy and energy resiliency projects. The award was given for an extensive upgrade to the iron casting supplier’s air compressor system at its foundry that increased energy efficiency and reduced annual energy and water usage. This is the second time in two years that Waupaca Foundry has been recognized for achievements in sustainability by the federal organization.

According to Waupaca Foundry, its Plant 1 alone melts approximately 300,000 tons of gray iron per year using cupola furnace technology. Compressed air is one of the top three significant energy users in the foundry and represents 10% of Plant 1’s annual electricity usage. Compressed air supports critical operations such as pneumatic systems, robotic operations, and environmental control systems. Maintaining a reliable and efficient compressed air system is a mandatory requirement to guarantee production operations, achieve energy and cost reduction goals, and reduce the plant’s environmental footprint.

Outdated compressors were replaced with new, more efficient models in a new compressor room; the foundry also improved piping layouts and captured the waste heat to provide the building heating during the colder months. Further system optimization included replacing the remaining old units with new high-efficiency units, installing a master control system, reducing the plant’s overall pressure from 95 to 87 PSI, and improving operations and maintenance practices. In addition, an ongoing compressor air leak management program was implemented. 

These project actions alone resulted in:

•    An overall increase in energy efficiency of 13.5%.

•    Reduced energy usage of 18,000 MMBTU/year, the equivalent energy consumed by 20 U.S. single family homes annually.

•    Reduced water usage of 13 million gallons of water/year, the equivalent of nearly 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

•    Elimination of 1,240t CO2, or 1%, GHG emissions, the equivalent of CO2 released by 620 people annually.

•    Energy usage reduction of 1,100,000 kWh, equivalent to powering 100 American homes for one year. 

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) recognized Waupaca Foundry’s environmental innovation with the trade association’s “Business Friend of the Environment” award in the large business category. The award cites a project to install smart controls at Waupaca Foundry Plant 2/3 to improve efficiency of ventilation equipment. 

Six roof-mounted exhaust fans removed heat and circulated air in the summer months—although fans ran continuously, they did not adequately address seasonal temperature variation. Existing fans were automated with temperature and carbon monoxide sensors and became a “smart” system operating only when needed as defined by temperatures and/or carbon monoxide levels.

These modifications resulted in significant energy savings with no loss in performance and provided the following results: 

•    Reduced electric and natural gas use annually.

•    Improved workplace ventilation and increased worker comfort. 

•    Actively monitored CO2 levels.

•    Low implementation costs. 

Waupaca Foundry is a leading supplier of cast and machined iron components for automotive, off-highway, commercial vehicle, and other industrial markets. Waupaca operates five iron foundries with 1.4 million tons of capacity, as well as machining and casting finishing operations in the U.S. Waupaca Foundry’s 2023 sustainability goals are: 

•    Reduce energy intensity by 5%.

•    Reduce the cumulative electrical consumption carbon footprint 30%.

•    Maintain air pollution control systems considered as “best available” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

•    Achieve a cumulative 80% beneficial reuse of spent foundry materials.

•    Reduce water use consumption by 10%.