December 23, 2014
By Meg Peters , Staff Writer
Last night, while Powers Distributing delivered around 24,000 cases of beer, drivers saved about 7.4 million tons of carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere.
Just one of their hybrid delivery tractor saves the world from 53 million tons of carbon emissions over seven years. They have 20.
Powers Distributing is the first beverage wholesaler in the United States to purchase a fleet of hybrid tractors, making them one of the greenest businesses in southern Michigan. Over the past three years the Orion Township business has come to be known as having one of the largest, privately held hybrid fleets in the county.
Since 2009 the beer distribution company located off Giddings Rd. has been converting their diesel fueled delivery trucks to B20 biodiesel hybrid tractors which are powered with by an electric motor and a percentage of biodiesel fuel.
With the conversion, the company has seen a 60 percent lift in miles per gallon in all their trucks, which typically would get about eight miles per gallon. Only one every‐day delivery truck used at Powers is not hybrid.
With about 350 deliveries a day, that's a lot of carbon emissions not being released into the air.
"If you look at it from a purely financial return, it's difficult to justify the things we do," Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Gary Thompson said. "But we believe the benefits—financial, marketing and social—outweigh the costs.
That's the biggest reason we pursue this, to make Michigan a better place to live."
Power's green technology extends far beyond their hybrid distribution vehicles.
Apart from the 20 hybrid tractors, about a $3 million investment, Powers has also purchased 10 hybrid cars for their sales team, and seven flex fuel vehicles, with plans to update technology in the future.
And the vehicles are only the tip of the 'go‐green' iceberg Powers is tapping.
In 2013 Powers finished a 360 solar panel installment on top of their recycling building on the 27 acre campus.
Not only does the energy gained from the solar system power the 40,000 square foot recycling building, a portion of it back feeds into the other 170,000 sq. foot distribution building. Producing about 120,000 kilowatt hours a year, the solar array could power about 20 homes. In total, the solar array cuts Power's typical $15,000 electric bill every month by $2,000.
"We've seen a change from the green minded or agenda people to people that want to see just the return on investment," Mike Haggerty with Michigan Solar Solutions who installed Power's solar array said. Powers is receiving about a nine percent annual return on investment, he added, compared to retirement accounts which are seeing about a two to three percent return.
"Assuming electricity goes up the same it's gone in the past 10 years, it's about an eight year return on investment for residents, and a little less for commercial.
" The recycling building itself is pretty radical. Apart from providing its own energy, Powers earns about $1.5 million a year from selling recycled materials they recover from their retailers.
Over the year Powers picks up about 2 million pounds of aluminum cans from their 2,700 retailers in Oakland and Macomb counties, about one‐third of the distribution market.
Trucks drop the cans off at the recycling center and machines bale what once contained refreshing beverages into 2,500 pound aluminum cubes that earn deposits under Michigan's bottle and can program.
According to Michigan legislation, about 25 percent of unreturned deposits—at 10 cents a can/bottle— are held by retailers and distributors. The other 75 percent of unreturned deposits are placed into the MI Cleanup and Redevelopment Trust Fund used to clean up contamination sites in the state. About 95.5 percent of all Michigan deposits are redeemed.
Powers also recycles 500,000 pounds of cardboard per year, 250,000 pounds of plastic, and ships un‐ returnable glass to Glass Recyclers in Dearborn which produces post‐consumer cullet, or crushed scrap glass used in new bottles.
For Powers, it's all about the little things.
A retention pond near the recycling building captures rain water, which in turn waters the grass, the truck washes and the men's urinals in all bathrooms of the plant.
About half of the lighting of the warehouse facility has been converted to T3 and T5 LED lightbulbs in an effort to drive down costs and electrical usage. LED lighting can provide anywhere from 30 to 75 percent savings in energy usage. If Powers were to convert the other 50 percent of lighting, it would cost roughly $90,000 with a return on investment in a little over 3.5 years.
Powers didn't forget about their beer delivery machinery either. The 3‐level Pick System used to shuttle different cases of beer to the correct truck at the correct time is completely mechanized. In one night the machine processes roughly 350 orders, transporting about 24,000 cases of beer to the delivery trucks. Photo‐electric eye lasers placed every 18 inches along the conveyer belt ensure that the machine does not move unless it senses a case of beer on the belt.
Every energy efficient step Powers Distributing takes is to keep Michigan healthy.
"I'm not the classical definition of a tree hugger and I don't know enough about it, but I do believe we've got to take better care of the earth," Thompson said. "Economically tourism is our number one industry, and we don't want people leaving the state.
"When that happens, all of us hurt. There are fewer people to enjoy beer, fewer people to go to restaurants and grocery stores. So the more we can keep people here, and make Michigan a great place to live, the better off we all are.
"It's all about trying to do everything we can do to put ourselves into a little better position to be ecologically responsible."