The latest installment of a United States Department of Energy web series features energy management teams from North Little Rock’s L’Oreal plant trading places with the team from Detroit’s General Motors facility.
The series, titled “SWAP," is a reality-style web series based on popular shows such as ABC’s “Wife Swap.” The Department of Energy oversaw the exchange, which details the two teams examining each other’s facilities to find ways to boost energy efficiency.
Maria Vargas is the director of the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, and said collaboration across industries is key to finding conservation solutions.
“You wouldn’t believe that, maybe a car manufacturer could learn anything from a manufacturing facility that makes cosmetics and of course that’s not the case,” Vargas said. “There was so much sharing and good ideas.”
Last year, L’Oreal implemented solar panels on its North Little Rock facility to help reduce the amount of energy it consumed. Eric Fox, manager of the cosmetics plant, said General Motors’ building management system is one idea he picked up on.
“It’s quite a large plant that they have, and they also run on a shift schedule as opposed to running a 24/7 operation like we do here in North Little Rock,” Fox said. “Utilizing that will help us enable better energy efficiency by better controlling HVAC and lighting in areas where it’s not always needed.”
General Motors Environmental Engineer Brian Wilger also got ideas from the L’Oreal plant.
“At the [North] Little Rock facility, we had some opportunity to see some of their best practices around LED lighting and where they’ve done upgrades and actually reduced the number of bulbs per fixture because of the lighting level improvement, as well as just some of their fantastic employee engagement practices,” Wilger said.
Vargas said the Department of Energy spearheaded the initiative in an effort to cut down on waste, and allow Americans to put money back into their communities.
“Getting buildings and manufacturing plants to be more energy efficient delivers tens of billions, if not a hundred billion dollars to this country in saved energy costs,” Vargas said. “When you’re not spending that money on energy bills, you’re spending it on textbooks or new equipment for your manufacturing facility, or something else that you want to do in your school district.”
Vargas added that efficiency is the fastest, cheapest, and cleanest resource the country has.