Focus on Energy resources are more than financial
Focus on Energy advisors are the energy efficiency heroes of whom you've probably never heard. Wisconsin businesses focused on reducing energy costs are eligible to receive financial assistance from Focus on Energy and can tap into a network of expert energy advisors for help. Energy advisors work with hundreds of Wisconsin manufacturers, farmers, industrial facilities and school districts to find ways to save energy and money.
Experts in energy efficiency
Richard Feustel is Mercury Marine's Focus on Energy advisor. “Before coming to Focus on Energy, I was in the military for 23 years,” he said. “I was in the Marine Corps and then a nuclear submarine officer.”
Feustel spent his post-military career inside manufacturing facilities, even working briefly at Mercury Marine, a Wisconsin manufacturer and world leader in outboard motors and inboard engines.
“I helped set up their energy program for a few years and then I was a corporate energy manager at Briggs and Stratton,” Feustel said. “Working in factories really prepared me as an energy advisor because that's what I do. I get into manufacturing facilities, understand how their process works and offer ideas and how I can improve their business from an energy perspective.”
Mercury Marine’s Dustin Hull is a professional engineer and certified energy manager. He has worked with Focus on Energy for more than 12 years. Prior to Mercury Marine, Hull worked at Rhode Brothers in Plymouth, Wisconsin, a 2022 Focus on Energy Trade Ally Energy Efficiency Excellence Award winner.
“Some of the projects that we do [at Mercury Marine] would not get approved because we would not probably understand incentives,” Hull said. “We would not be applying for incentives. Having that relationship with Focus on Energy, with our advisor, Richard, is critical to promote, to understand what projects are there."
Even when a company isn’t working on a project, Focus on Energy advisors try to find new ways to save utility customers energy and money.
Hull said Feustel is great to work with. He's knowledgeable, helps identify opportunities and calculate savings and incentives, and he helps complete the paperwork to “make sure we get our incentives that we are signed up for.”
Mercury Marine's sustainability program
Mercury Marine’s sustainability program is focused on energy, environment, products and people.
“The initial way to get energy efficiency going in a facility … is to start small,” Feustel said. “Start with things that are noticeable.”
When Feustel walks into the facilities he advises, the first thing he does is look up.
“Over the last three years, we've installed around 3,000 light fixtures in our manufacturing facilities,” said Brian Jenquine, Mercury Marine electrical facilities engineer. “We have about another thousand more to install this year. We'll finish this project out. It'll be a five-year project installing around 5,000 light fixtures.”
The lighting project is thanks to a $200,000 Focus on Energy incentive. Jenquine said Feustel was integral in selecting high-efficiency fixtures. Oddly enough, Jenquine is replacing all the fluorescent lights Feustel installed when he worked at Mercury Marine.
“And the employees like the lighting,” said Hull. “It's brighter. It's more cheery to be at work.”
"We've saved about 2.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually,” said Jenquine. “That's enough to power about 175 homes for one year.”
Using less energy to do the same work
“Energy savings not only are coming from the efficient electric furnace, but also eliminating some of the process steps,” Ranja Katti said. “We use less energy to do the same work. … The energy savings that we are accomplishing by switching from atmospheric carbonizing to vacuum carbonizing is enough to power 250 homes for a year. At the same time, because we are not using natural gas to heat the furnace, we also are eliminating about 1,500 metric tons of greenhouse gases per year.”
Feustel and Katti worked together to secure an incentive for a custom electric heat-treating furnace that’s 95% energy efficient, 35% more efficient than the previous radiant tube heating.
A lot of heat in the manufacturing process used to be wasted.
“Reverb furnaces are furnaces that hold or melt aluminum that we use for die-cast production,” said Trevor Schwartz, Mercury Marine support services manager. “Instead of having the gas and heat evaporate, then out the stack, it actually goes into these containers.”
This is a reverb furnace with a new regenerative burner using little balls to trap heat and transfer it back and forth. That keeps the heat from escaping and reduces the need to reheat the furnace.
Schwartz said the furnace will save 50% in natural gas usage, and it will save about 3,000 acres of natural forest.
Feustel’s diligence and knowledge of the industry ensured Mercury Marine received a $300,000 Focus on Energy incentive for the furnace.
“Richard helped us, you know, figure out what we need to do, how to get things in place,” Schwartz said.
“Without Richard's help, without Focus on Energy's help, some of these projects would not go ahead,” Hull said.
Focus on Energy’s partnership with Wisconsin’s utilities provides more than just cash incentives to businesses across the state. Energy advisors are there before, during and after projects with knowledge and support to keep businesses on their energy efficiency path.
“All these projects come together to provide a much more energy-efficient work environment for the employees and for the company,” Feustel said. “They're saving a lot of energy, they're saving money and that's what matters to the company.”
“Richard is our energy superhero,” Hull said.
“I love being Mercury Marine's energy superhero!” Feustel said.
This content was originally posted by our partner, Focus on Energy. Focus on Energy is Wisconsin utilities’ energy efficiency resource program funded by utility companies like Alliant Energy. The partnership provides resources, incentives and rebates that benefit electric and gas customers across Wisconsin.