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130-year-old northern Wisconsin manufacturer logs energy efficiency milestone

130 years and going strong!
Great Lakes Veneer in Marion, Wisconsin, sources high-quality hardwood logs and transforms them into premium veneer that goes on to become musical instruments, skateboards and other precision-crafted, one-of-a-kind products you might even have in your home. This 130-year-old manufacturer always stays on the cutting edge and works to ensure the community that helped it grow is around another 130 years. What it does to achieve that goal earned this Alliant Energy customer a 2023 Energy Efficiency Excellence Award from Focus on Energy.

It takes energy to turn logs into thin sheets. The process starts in the fields next to Great Lakes Veneer’s facility. The logs must stay wet in order to cut them first into approximately 500-pound, 4-foot pieces, then slice them further with precision cutting tools.

Tim Dantoin, a Focus on Energy adviser, realized one of those logs could have become one of his teenage sons’ skateboards. He took a scrap of product home. “I could tell them, this is part of your longboard,” Tim said at the awards ceremony for Great Lakes Veneer. “… they started asking questions.”

Collaboration with Alliant Energy
In 2020, Great Lakes Veneer embarked on a three-year effort to improve its product drying operation. By the end of 2022, Great Lakes Veneer upgraded steam boiler controls, added variable frequency drives on process pumps and fans, and installed a more efficient de-aeration tank.

Altogether, Great Lakes Veneer’s upgrades cost more than $750,000, and the payoff in energy efficiency is significant. Tim said the project saved 1.5 million kilowatt-hours and 240,000 therms, the equivalent of 450 Wisconsin homes’ worth of annual energy use.

“I would like to thank Focus on Energy for the exceptional service as well as some of the engineering benefits and financial benefits,” said Greg Gorski, Great Lakes Veneer’s director of manufacturing. He thanked Alliant Energy for its guidance and Tim for, “telling us exactly how to step through the quagmire to get through to a good result."

Jason Nett of Alliant Energy said a walk through Great Lakes Veneer’s facility would make other manufacturers “open their eyes to the amount of energy efficiency and automation … .”

wood veneer sheet

This veneer sheet could become a skateboard!

Committed to the future
Frank Barh, Focus on Energy’s utility engagement relationship manager said Great Lakes Veneer’s continuous improvements and innovation have, “seen them through more than a century of social and economic changes spanning four generations, two world wars, the Great Depression and major recessions … So, thank you, Great Lakes Veneer Corporation for not only allowing Focus on Energy to be part of your family, but also for giving us the opportunity to partner with you in your ongoing efforts to identify and implement energy efficiency improvements, and for making energy efficiency part of your team-oriented culture."

A version of 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.

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Great Lakes Veneer - 2023 Energy Efficiency Award Recipient

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