For the Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA), each day is a balancing act. The Ovid-based dairy cooperative and Consumers Energy industrial electrical customer serves as a balancing plant for the Great Lakes milk market. It operates around the clock to handle about one-third of the raw milk production that comes from 2,200 member farmers in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin.
“The demand for milk fluctuates throughout the year, especially during the weekends, holidays and summers,” said David Wittkop, director of operations for MMPA’s Ovid plant. “We take the extra milk that comes from our members every day to help meet their growing needs as well as the needs of our customers.”
With the extra milk, the plant produces butter, nonfat dry milk powder, whole milk powder, cream, condensed skim milk and specialty blends. To accommodate its increasing production needs, the plant recently expanded its daily milk processing capacity from 3 million pounds to 5 million pounds per day.
MMPA spent nearly $62 million over two years to upgrade plant equipment and make improvements to the receiving, processing and warehousing areas within its 185,000-square-foot facility. Those upgrades and improvements also translated into increased energy needs for MMPA.
“Our expansion required a dedicated circuit for us so that we could continue to have reliable electric supply for our daily operations,” Wittkop said. “The costs for making that electric infrastructure upgrade were not included as part of our initial expansion.”
In response, Wittkop worked with Christina Gipson, a Flint corporate account manager, to develop a five-year extraordinary facilities contract to help cover MMPA’s costs for new electrical upgrades at the nearby Ovid substation. MMPA’s increased demand from 1.86 megawatts to 3.2 megawatts over the contract term allowed for recovery of the upgrade costs.
As part of its expansion, MMPA also qualified for the economic development provision due to its new incremental electric load. That provision allows MMPA to receive credits on its monthly energy bills, which expires in October 2013 due to legislative requirements.
“Being part of this provision has helped MMPA receive credits totaling more than $357,000 since April 2010,” said Gipson, who’s been working closely with Wittkop and other MMPA employees for seven years. “It’s our goal to help provide the best value for our customers and ensure their energy needs are met along with the growing needs of their business.”
Gipson’s work with MMPA extends beyond the special contract and money-saving provision. Along with her Consumers Energy colleagues, she helped MMPA interconnect three large, 6-megawatt back-up diesel generators and an underground electric service line to protect it from unexpected outages. In the future, Gipson and Wittkop plan to take a closer look at installing energy-efficient lighting throughout the plant.
“We’re very pleased to have a utility that’s interested in working with us and getting to know our business,” Wittkop said. “They continue to play an integral role in helping us balance our energy usage with the growing demands of our industry.”
By: Lori Stratton