BY BARRETT COLOMBO

When the City of Minnetonka approached Holaday Circuits, Inc., about a project to improve water and energy conservation within the company’ operations, the partnership came easily.  The Minnetonka-based company produces circuit boards and other equipment that requires a lot of water and power to manufacture.  Although the company is already at the cutting edge of water and energy efficiency in their operations, they were open to finding even more opportunities for improvement.

“What’s good for the environment is good for our customers and Holaday Circuits,” Clyde Bassimor, Facilities Manager at Holaday Circuits, told the students during their visit to the company facilities.   Although the students were impressed at the actions Holaday had already taken to make their operations more efficient, their analysis discovered opportunities for reusing water and energy with paybacks on investment of as little as three months.

Because the impacts of excess water use and energy consumption can increase a community’s vulnerability to environmental shocks over the long term, the City of Minnetonka hopes to improve resource use in the community through partnering with businesses to identify conservation opportunities.  Holaday Circuits can serve as a model to other businesses in the community; this spring, the Resilient Communities Project will engage graduate students in communications to extend the Holaday case study into a larger effort to engage other businesses.

The Holaday Circuits–Minnetonka partnership is one project in a much larger effort coordinated by the Resilient Communities Project (RCP).   RCP partners with one community over an academic year to work on a broad range of solutions that address community-identified sustainability needs.  More than twenty courses from seven different colleges at the University are working in Minnetonka during the course of this year.  This past fall, a course on Pollution Prevention, taught by Professor Cindy McComas, worked with Holaday Circuits and the City of Minnetonka to identify water and energy conservation opportunities.

One promising but controversial recommendation from students in McComas’ class revolved around whether the large amount of waste water the facility discharges could be reused effectively.  Because water used in electronics manufacturing becomes contaminated with dissolved metals, it is considered waste that requires treatment.  However, the students’ analysis suggested that the waste water could be reused in the company’s existing cooling towers as part of the facility’s temperature control system.  Cooling towers don’t require potable water, and the existing system could be retrofitted to use the company’s waste water instead.  The students noted that although this change could significantly lower the company’s water bill, mineral and sustained bacteria growth in the cooling towers could cause problems.

Students also recommended adding sensors to facility lights to reduce energy use, and weatherizing doors in Holaday’s delivery area, including tighter compression seals to fit around the top and sides of trucks while they are in the loading dock . The students estimated that the company would make up for the cost of this investment in as little as three months.

Barrett Colombo is a program associate for the Resilient Communities Project

Investments in water and energy efficiency that pay back
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