Seaman Paper’s “Let There Be (LED) Light” Program Earns AF&PA Sustainability Award

February 11, 2020

Sustainability is one of Seaman Paper’s core values. As an industry leader, we strive to make progress toward a cleaner planet via initiatives that significantly minimize the impact we have on the environment. One example is our “Let There Be (LED) Light” program, a switch to LED lighting that reduced our annual electricity consumption by an estimated 1,263,000 kilowatt hours (kWh).  This initiative earned the attention of the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), who recognized our progress by honoring Seaman Paper with the 2019 AF&PA Sustainability Award for Energy Efficiency/Greenhouse Gas Reduction.

Chosen by a panel of sustainability experts from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the AF&PA’s Awards recognize exemplary sustainability programs and initiatives in the paper and wood products manufacturing industry. According to AF&PA President and CEO Heidi Brock, “The winning projects further our industry’s sustainability record and contribute toward achieving the Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 goals. We are proud to recognize these outstanding examples of sustainability leadership.”

Unique Benefits of LED Lighting

Any time a company in the paper industry, or any industry for that matter, is determining how to minimize costs, efficiency is a common discussion point.  For paper mills, specifically, lighting improvements are widely beneficial, as the light quality provided can enhance efficiency and safety while potentially optimizing productivity.

At Seaman Paper, lighting improvements have become a standard upgrade as technology has evolved. In the early 2000s, our high-pressure sodium and fluorescent lighting was replaced with T8 fluorescent lighting due to the latter’s considerable cost savings. Since then, LED has become the state-of the-art lighting option. Here’s why.

For starters, LED lighting is far more energy-efficient than most other common lighting technology. In fact, LEDs use about 25%-80% less energy than other sources, while emitting noticeably more light.  While other lighting types release significant amounts of energy as heat, LEDs produce far less, further boosting energy efficiency. This also may be considered safer, as the enhanced lighting allows for more visibility while the reduced heat minimizes the risk of anything burning. The end result is better lighting at a fraction of the cost on electricity bills.

While LED lights typically carry higher up-front expenses than other types, their longevity will ultimately help lower replacement and maintenance costs in the long run. The relatively high initial investment may turn businesses away from adopting them, but what Seaman Paper recognized is that the financial and environmental ROI is considerable. LED lights can last up to 13 times longer than conventional incandescent bulbs and three times longer than compact fluorescent (CFL) lighting. With this longer lifespan, fewer LED bulbs will need to be produced, packaged and ultimately disposed of, further reducing the environmental impact.

Let There Be Light

The LED program we introduced began with outside engineers assessing our existing lighting demand. This assessment was used to calculate the estimated savings that would be realized with LED lighting, factoring in the installation costs. Seaman Paper’s utility then calculated a subsidy that would ultimately yield a two- to three-year payback. The utility prepaid Seaman Paper’s share of the project, charging the cost back via the electricity bill over the two- to three-year period. The savings from the project completely offset the utility payment, and after 2-3 years all savings accrued to Seaman Paper.

With these energy conservation incentives, Seaman Paper was able to replace 431,000 square feet of T8 lighting with LED lighting. We specified LED lighting for 345,000 square feet of construction of new warehouses, as well. The project’s electricians were also able to identify and utilize LED fixtures that can withstand hot and moist conditions, as not all lighting can survive the environment of a paper mill. By finding the right fixtures, we were able to install LED lighting in the machine room, resulting in enhanced visibility in such a crucial part of the production process. Along with the aforementioned benefits of LED lights, the fixtures also feature motion detectors that automatically dim and shut the lights off when no one is in the building, further improving cost savings.

In total, the full retrofit construction was approximately 776,000 square feet. With the added efficiency of the LED Lighting, as well as the motion-detecting and automatic dimming technology, Seaman Paper is saving over 1.2 million kWh per year.

Soft Steps Forward

The “Let There Be (LED) Light” program is just one piece of Seaman Paper’s Soft Steps Forward initiative, in which we continuously examine and enhance various procedures at every stage of operation to improve overall sustainability performance. These goals have been aligned with The AF&PA’s “Better Practices, Better Planet 2020” program to help us better gauge the effectiveness of our efforts on our way to our common vision.

Along with forest sustainability, fiber use, water treatment, recycling, and safety improvements, energy conservation is a key pillar to the Soft Steps Forward initiative. Over the past 20 years, Seaman Paper’s Gardner, Massachusetts paper mill has seen various equipment upgrades to optimize efficiency and minimize electricity consumption. In fact all improvements in this sector have reduced our electricity use by 3 million kWh per year since 2002. While the LED Lighting installation has been a significant factor in helping us reach our goal, it’s just one piece of our electrical energy conservation strategy. Other specific efforts include:

  • Installing 140 variable speed drives on paper machines that only use energy needed to complete production processes
  • Conducting regular analysis to allow for quick identification and improvement of energy inefficiencies
  • Installing regenerative brakes on paper winders that minimize energy use without sacrificing papermaking precision
  • Eliminating Eddy current clutches to cut down on energy waste
  • Routing hot condensate through pipes in offices to remove the need for electric heat
  • Improving refiner plates to increase production efficiency

As a leader in the paper products industry, Seaman Paper recognizes our influence, taking on the responsibility to foster innovative ideas to minimize any negative impact on the environment. Leading by example, we hope to encourage this conscious evolution to reach the common goal of bettering our planet. To learn more about our efforts and respective results, see our sustainability report.

2019 AF&PA Sutanability Award winners
Seaman Paper President Ryan Lichwell receiving the 2019 AF&PA Sustainability Award for Energy Efficiency/Greenhouse Gas Reduction
Seaman Paper President Ryan Lichwell receiving the 2019 AF&PA Sustainability Award for Energy Efficiency/Greenhouse Gas Reduction
Seaman Paper's Warehouse with LED Lighting


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