Episode Description

For this episode, Energizing Tennessee is changing its format – or rather, its host – a little bit. Steve Seifried, Tennessee Account Executive for Ameresco and President of the Board for the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, is your guest host for today’s conversation.

In this episode, Seifried and his guests will explore how manufacturers in our state are meeting their sustainability goals with advanced energy and other innovative solutions. He’ll speak with: 

He will also speak with a Tennessee Greenstar Partnership (TGSP) representative about the program and how it supports Tennessee manufacturers. That representative is Caleb Powell, Environmental Scientist 2 in the Office of Sustainable Practices, Division of Stakeholder Engagement at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Episode Transcript

Cortney Piper: Welcome to Energizing Tennessee, powered by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council in FirstBank. We’re your number-one podcast from news about Tennessee’s advanced energy sector. I’m your host, Cortney Piper. 

Steve Seifried: Today, Energizing Tennessee is changing our format, or rather host, a little bit. I’m Steve Seifried, Tennessee account executive for Ameresco, one of the leading advanced energy solutions firms in the country.

I also happen to be the president of the board for the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council and your guest host for today’s episode. 

In this episode, we’re exploring how manufacturers in our state are meeting their sustainability goals with advanced energy and other innovative solutions. We’ll speak with three major manufacturers and representatives from the Tennessee Green Star Partnership. I think you’re gonna like our conversation. 

Cortney Piper: I am pleased to welcome back our sponsor, Brent Ball, FirstBank Market President for Knoxville, Tennessee. Brent, what’s the value of partnerships such as our own with Energizing Tennessee in supporting the advanced energy economy?

Brent Ball: Well, you know, first off, thanks for having me here. We love the relationship, and again, anyway that we can give back to the community, help people understand more of what’s going in Knoxville or in our region. We’d love to help and again, we know how important energy initiatives are.

And again, it’s something that a lot of people do not know about. So any way that we can help get the word out there we will do it. And again, you know, at FirstBank we’re, headquartered here in Tennessee, have local divisions and of course, we’d love for somebody to listen to this podcast and give us a call if there’s a way that we can help.

Cortney Piper: Absolutely Brent, we have so enjoyed our partnership with FirstBank. You all have made Energizing Tennessee possible in helping us spread the good news about Tennessee’s advanced energy economy. So thank you and thank you for coming on the show. 

Brent Ball: Thank you, Cortney.

Steve Seifried: To learn more about this state partnership that supports Tennessee manufacturers and their sustainability journeys, I’m speaking with one of the representatives of the Tennessee Green Star Partnership Program with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation in their division of stakeholder engagement.

I have Caleb Powell with me today. A fellow podcaster, it appears, also an environmental scientist in the Office of Sustainable Practices. Thanks for joining me today. 

Caleb Powell: Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be on a podcast. It’s weird being on this side. We’ve got a podcast for our office about different sustainability throughout the state programs and stuff going on like that.

So being actually on the other side’s pretty, pretty fun. 

Steve Seifried: Tell us about the Green Star partnership. 

Caleb Powell: It’s a voluntary environmental leadership program, and it’s of course facilitated by the department, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, but more specifically, our office, the Office of Sustainable Practices. And it’s for manufacturers that are here in the state that are going above and beyond the regulatory permitting and all of that and being those great examples for the manufacturing sector around the world. Going above and beyond energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction.

Steve Seifried: This particular partnership has a membership, and what are some of those benefits of being a member? 

Caleb Powell: When a manufacturer comes to us and, and fills out the application and says, Hey, we want to be a Tennessee Greenstar Partner, we want our manufacturing facility to be, you know, recognized as one of these sustainability leaders in the sector that we’re in. 

And so it’s an easy process. We’ll come in, we’ll talk to your ESG team figure out a lot of the sustainability stuff that you’ve got going on. Of course, you’ve gotta be in compliance with our regulatory side of things.

 Then once we come and visit and see your processes and then that also gives us an opportunity to see some of the low-hanging fruit that we can offer up suggestions like, Hey, this manufacturer has put in motion lights, motion sensor lights, or has done this efficiency upgrade that has just reduced in the ROIs very low.

It helps us be able to see some stuff that we can recommend. So right off the bat, there’s some recommendations just from experiences and case studies that we’ve seen through other manufacturers here in the state. And then also you get inclusion in our directory, which it’s fairly new, we have these open discussion meetings every quarter, and it just brings all of the Green Star partners together to just discuss issues that you might be having, successes that you’ve had so that maybe you could help a peer in the state. And we’ve had a lot of great success from that. 

Steve Seifried: Strength in numbers.

Caleb Powell: Yeah it builds a network and, you know, a lot of times these environmental health and safety groups in facilities, I mean, have a lot of different things they gotta do. They’ve gotta keep their regulatory permits up to date. Health and safety is a huge thing. It’s really important, but a lot of times that’s housed all together.

So we’re seeing that if we can sort of be that researcher, we can be the oh, I’ll go to a conference, I’ll go to an energy conference and I’ll see all these new technologies coming on, and then I’ll invite one to do one of our other benefits. We do quarterly webinars every year.

So, so we do four webinars a year, and that’ll be just new technologies, new efficiency. Well, I’ll bring speakers in to be able to give good examples of, you know, and, and be that resource. So that all these environmental health and safety managers aren’t having to go and do all this research themselves.

I’m sort of bringing that new technologies and, and efficiencies to them. We also do a summer workshop. It’s an in-person and that’ll be at one of the peer Partners. This past summer we were at Florim USA and they’re a tile manufacturer in Clarksville and they are killing it. And I think you actually you actually might have already talked to them. 

Steve Seifried: We just did, yeah, they’re part of this podcast as a matter of fact. So I have a question, obviously you have a library of these webinars and a lot of this resource. But for a company that says that, let’s say, has ambition, in this space or even has goals that have been newly given to them or professional within a company that’s been given these very ambitious goals.

But they’re not they’re just starting to think through these alternatives and think through how to do it. Is there a space in the partnership for them as well? And how would they get engaged?

Caleb Powell: If you’re a manufacturer in the state and you’re interested in being more sustainable, reach out to us, please.

The Office of Sustainable Practices is a resource. We want to be that sustainability and environmental steward resource, especially for manufacturers. I think that’s in my opinion, that’s where the most opportunity for energy reduction, waste reduction, water conservation is when you’re doing these big processes, you’re taking a raw material or materials into a facility, doing a process to ’em, making a product, there’s, there’s a lot of opportunity. 

Steve Seifried: Caleb Powell, thank you very much for your time your passion and also your expertise. And I look forward to having a lot of our listeners give you a call and bend your ear and start using the resources that your program has. Thanks again. 

Caleb Powell: Yeah, happy to be here. Give me a call. 

Steve Seifried: Be well.

For today’s conversation about how manufacturers are meeting their sustainability goals. We’re speaking with Don Haynes, the Environmental and Sustainability manager at Florim U.S.A., Dr. Gideon Sarpong, the Environment Health Safety Manager at Nucor Steel Memphis and Shawn Bryant, Senior Manager of Health and Environment at DENSO.

Gentlemen, thank you for coming on the show. So as a warmup, I’m gonna ask each of you just to briefly tell me a little bit about yourself and your role. 

Don, why don’t you start with your company and your role there? 

Don Haynes: Well, I’m the Environment and Sustainability Manager at Florim U.S.A. We’re the largest single-site porcelain tile producer in the U.S. and we’re undergoing major expansion.

We’re a large consumer of electricity. We’re a large consumer of natural gas. So the whole concept of advanced energy is important to us and how we go about business and attain our goals. 

Steve Seifried: Thank you Dr. Sarpong. 

Gideon Sarpong: Yeah, I’m Dr. Gideon Sarpong, I’m the Environmental Health and Safety Manager with Nucor Steel Memphis. 

I am a civil engineer by profession and I have been with the company for two years. Nucor is the largest steel producer and the largest recycler of any material in the western hemisphere. 

Steve Seifried: Thank you very much. Shawn, why don’t you share about DENSO? 

Shawn Bryant: Sure, Steve. My name is Shawn Bryant, Senior Manager of North America’s Safety Environment for DENSO North America.

Sustainability is important to DENSO, it’s embedded in our two great causes, green and peace of mind. Think of green as what makes your automobile components green. Reduce CO2 emissions, eliminate CO2 emissions. And then, the great cause for peace of mind relates to avoiding accidents, preventing injuries, but also an automobile self-diagnosing itself, telling you what it may or may not need.

So as one of the world’s largest automobile parts makers, energy consumption and advanced energy is very important to our business. 

Steve Seifried: I’m sure it is for each of you as well. And I would like to note that each of you are recognized by the Tennessee Green Star Partnership, the state program that looks to you and other companies as leaders in this space as it relates to our use of energy and our environment.

So I want to commend all of you and, and your companies for being on that short list here in the state. 

Don, why don’t you tell us why sustainability is important to Florim. 

Don Haynes: Well, it’s integral to how we do business and how we identify as a business. The “L” in our logo is green for two reasons – one, the nature aspect of green, and the other is the owner’s name is Lucchese, that’s different, I suppose. 

So it’s how we do business. Every decision we make, sustainability enters into that business decision. Carbon neutrality goals for 2030 for our house brand of tile. We look at solar energy, we look at biogas. Everything is on the table, and we are open to suggestion and that’s why we like TAEBC is that it provides like-minded people that have solutions that have similar problems, it’s an open discussion, it’s a very valuable tool for us. 

Steve Seifried: Well, I’ve seen your plant and it’s fascinating how you reuse materials, how you’re extremely efficient and the thoughtfulness that goes into that. And I think some of that’s reflected in your company’s leadership. How long have you been there?

Don Haynes: I’ve been here for eight years now, but oddly enough, permitted the factory as a consultant back in ’91. So I’ve got a long history with the building. 

Steve Seifried: Florim had a long commitment to environment, energy as well. 

So Dr. Sarpong, why don’t you tell us about some of the targets and the efforts that you have underway relating to sustainability there at Nucor in Memphis.

Gideon Sarpong: Nucor Memphis has collaborated with our local power company to develop a strategy of low shedding for energy savings. As a large electricity consumer, Nucor Memphis has agreed as part of the low shedding to have eight power supply interrupted during times of peak demand in order to maintain the stability of electricity of the electricity grid. We save electricity during these peak demand periods when electricity production is most reliant on high CO2 sources and instead operates the plant during periods of low power demand, such as overnight hours.

So that’s what the low shedding is about. Also corporate-wide, we have some big initiatives. Even though we are one of the cleanest steel producers in the world we are not satisfied. Okay? So we are committed to getting better and are putting our money we’re where our mouth is.

Nucor has committed to 35% combined reduction in steel mill, scope one, scope two greenhouse gas intensity by 2030 using 2015 as a baseline. This goal will take Nucor Memphis’CO2 emissions down to 77% percent less than 2020s global steel-making average. Nucor became first major industrial company in the world to join the United Nation 24/ 7 Carbon Free Energy Global Compact, which is aimed at accelerating the decarbonization of the world’s electricity systems.

Also, are making investment in clean energy and other technologies that have the potential to reduce our emissions even more. We have signed several virtual power purchase agreements that have funded the development of wind and solar projects. Today, nearly 40% of our power comes from clean or renewable energy sources, and that number is only going to grow in the future.

We also invested in new scale power. A Developer of small modular nuclear reactor technology. This kind of nuclear reactor technology has the potential to be a source of carbon-free baseload power. We are also looking for ways to reduce emissions from our raw materials and other investments. In Electra, a startup company developing a process to produce carbon-free ion that can be used in making steel.

You mentioned, why is sustainability important? I would like to highlight that. 

Sustainability has been at the core of Nucor business model for more than 50 years, and Nucor believes that green economy is built on steel. Whether wind turbines, solar arrays or electric vehicles, the green innovations that are driven, that are driving the American economy forward depend on the creation of high-quality and sustainable steel.

Steve Seifried: All right, excellent. Shawn, I’m gonna ask you the same question. Tell us about DENSO’s sustainability targets and some of the efforts and projects you’ve got underway.

Shawn Bryant: Sure, thank you, Steve. DENSO is declared to be carbon neutral by 2035. We have a 2025 milestone targeting electricity. Recently we announced a partnership and broke ground on a Solar Farms in Blount County with TVA, Silicon Ranch in the city of Maryville.

Very proud of that partnership and it show’s how much we can help green up communities potentially. Interesting thing about DENSO is that not only do we have operational targets, manufacturing targets, our products, you know, can contribute to CO2 production as well. So we have strict product goals as part of our green great cause to reduce carbon emissions from the products that are used by the consumers.

Steve Seifried: One great example of that likely is that you have made alternators and starters in your plants in Maryville, Tennessee for years, and I know now you’ve just recently begun a very ambitious and aggressive move towards making electric vehicle inverters. So why don’t you talk briefly about that too. That’s kind of what you’re talking about, right? 

Shawn Bryant: That’s correct. So the Plant 101 and 102 we call it on the east and west side of the street of Robert C. Jackson has been under a transformation. We call it ES, electrification systems transformation. For the past couple years, we’re starting alternator lines you know, built for internal combustion engines are being phased out and a rapid acceleration of inverter lines for plugin-type hybrids, hybrid vehicles, as well as fully battery electric vehicles are being integrated into the plant. I think you’ve been to the plant and seen some of the newest technology being deployed, the clean room technology and what it takes to build a product to electrify a vehicle. Truly amazing. 

Steve Seifried: It it really is fascinating and I’ve told numerous people, Shawn, that when I heard DENSO was aggressively moving towards manufacturing inverters and moving away from starters and alternators that honestly for me was what I consider kind of one of those switches that flipped that EVs are really happening because I’ve heard for decades, well, EVs are coming you know, it’s just a matter of time. But to see the kind of capital investment DENSO is made in that in the past three years tells me that I can trust your instincts. And so I’m pretty excited to see how that impacts the vehicle market. 

So, Don, I know that Florim has very specific sustainability targets and efforts and programs underway.

Why don’t you share with us what you think would be really good for us to know? 

Don Haynes: Well, in addition to what we do with energy efficiency, renewable energy, we also reduce our footprint in terms of renewable or excuse me, recycled raw materials and recyclable waste product. A fun project we’ve got going now is The raw clays that we receive have chloride, fluoride and sulfur that make acid gases in our kiln exhaust.

We inject a lyme product into that, react that out so that we have clean exhaust, clean emissions, collect that spent lyme and now we have an aftermarket use for that with another vendor who uses it as a raw material in their product. So we’ve kept that out of the landfill of the tune of nominally three tons a day of avoided landfill waste. 

So that’s another, we look for little opportunities wherever we can find them like that, for what can we take out of the waste stream. 

Steve Seifried: That’s really encouraging. And also, I assume you make a little bit of income from that, revenue from that too. 

Don Haynes: Well, by balancing out the saved tipping fee, it’s a, it’s a wash, but it’s a wash that we’re willing to work with.

Steve Seifried: Well, fantastic. So I mentioned earlier each of you are part of the Tennessee Green Star Partnership. They are in, in part, they’re also a part of this podcast. And so one question I have for all of you, and I’ll just let you, any one of you jump in. Why did you guys join the Green Star Partnership?

Gideon Sarpong: So for Nucor, we joined the partnership because the vision of the program aligns with Nucor’s sustainability goals. At Nucor we are continually, you know, making a conscious effort to reduce our carbon footprints. So thank you. 

Steve Seifried: Shawn, do you have any thoughts on that? 

Shawn Bryant: Yeah, from DENSO we’ve been part of the Green Star Partnership since 2002, you know, going 21 years now.

And it fits our what we call Echo Vision model and where we try to reduce waste and improve efficient use of materials, reduce chemical emissions, conserve water, but also it opened up doors to meet people like Don and Dr. Sarpong so that we can learn from them the network of knowledge that the Green Star Partnership offers is truly valuable to DENSO because not only do we want to take care of ourselves, we want to help others. And where we can’t help ourselves, others can help us. So that network of knowledge is truly an asset. 

Steve Seifried: Yeah. It really is wonderful to, to gain that kind of perspective and experience from others. And also as they say, misery loves company, right? We’re all really working hard to be better in this arena. And it’s no easy accomplishment. 

Don? What about you all and Green Star Partnership? 

Don Haynes: Very similar. I like the networking and we like the association with like-minded people that are headed in the same direction, have the same vision, have the same goals.

It’s oftentimes in business, there’s a fight to do the green thing, to do the right thing, but with this crowd, there’s not, and it’s pleasing. 

Steve Seifried: Well said all of you. Thank you. Those listeners on this podcast really look to us as the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council to help them figure out how they can gain traction themselves and to hear not only the best and brightest ideas out there, but what lessons learned, that they can benefit from. And a shameless little plug here for the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council. You know, we’re a statewide nonprofit organization, we’ve been dedicated for many years to championing the advanced energy sector as a means for economic development, and this includes sustainable efforts just like the three of your companies are doing. 

But why don’t I ask Dr. Sarpong if he would answer first, what advice would you give for other manufacturing entities in the state of Tennessee and how to approach advanced energy or sustainability? 

Gideon Sarpong: We found, we have found that talking with our customers about their sustainability needs have helped guide decisions we make.

It is also important to say on top of the technology development, you know, things are changing fast and tremendous opportunities are there a lot of opportunities available to improve sustainability. So, also another advice will be the efficiencies that can be gained through energy improvement and sustainability solutions like my other colleagues that can save companies money.

So the big one to take home for me will be know what your competitors are doing. Being an innovator in sustainable solutions can give you a competitive advantage. 

Steve Seifried: Wonderful. Thank you. And Shawn, what about DENSO? What advice would you or the folks at DENSO give the rest of the Tennessee manufacturing community?

Shawn Bryant: We do believe partnerships are important, it’s an outside network of knowledge that you can tap into, pick up on bits of information. And as Don said, the networking opportunities, you know, and the resources available are endless. And utilizing and tapping into and asking questions to others can provide much more guidance, broader answers to kind of challenge your initial thinking to what can we achieve at the next level.

Steve Seifried: And Don, I know your CEO in Italy is driving a lot of Florim’s passion and zeal and for this work. But what advice would you give similarly to those who are listening to this podcast? 

Don Haynes: Well, I think the first place we need to start with advanced energy and sustainability is with that which is economically viable. What we’ve discovered through a lot of our work is. That they pay efficiency pays that we can use electricity more efficiently, use gas more efficiently, use our raw materials more efficiently. There’s a benefit. It’s a change in how we do work, which can be a challenge just because change is bad for many people, but economically it’s viable.

So that we have a payback as we get more down the road, the paybacks get longer. But there, there continues to be a positive economic benefit to sustainability and advanced energy for us. 

Steve Seifried: Now, Don, Florim U.S.A. has been a member for a couple of years now, and we’ve spoken on panels together at other TAEBC events.

For you, what is the value of organizations like at TAEBC and bringing together advanced energy solutions providers and manufacturers into the same room to learn and discover new solutions? 

Don Haynes: Well, what I’ve discovered through these relationships is like-minded people in a place the ideas flow. There’s a synergy there that I don’t get in other places.

In other places, the talk of sustainability, the talk of advanced energy brings a search for roadblocks rather than a search for solutions. So that as I work with these people of like mind, headed for a common goal, for a carbon-free future, then, then it really makes a benefit to us, to me personally, to be around people there’s an energy there that I truly enjoy. 

Steve Seifried: I want to thank you all for your time, but before we leave, Dr. Sarpong where can people learn more about Nucor Memphis’ activities and what they’re doing in this space? 

Gideon Sarpong: So you can learn more about our sustainability efforts by reading our sustainability reports, which is available at www.nucor.com.

Steve Seifried: Thank you. And then I’m sure looking at one of the main tabs, there’ll be something related to sustainability or operations or goals or who we are, that kind of thing?

Gideon Sarpong: Yes. Yes sir. Actually, our sustainability report is annually the most downloaded item of our website. 

Steve Seifried: That is really interesting and it makes sense too.

Okay. How about you, Shawn? How can we learn more about what’s going on with DENSO and your activities in this space? 

Shawn Bryant: Similar. You can go to either DENSO’s global website, you can go to the North America website to learn more about sustainability. If you want to see results of Green Star Partnership projects, you can go to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and see some stories written about DENSO projects from both the Maryville and Athens location, and of course, social media. If you follow Denso on social media in North America, you’ll get content on what’s going on with green and peace of mind. 

Steve Seifried: Fantastic, Don. 

Don Haynes: You can learn more about Florim easily at milestonetiles.com or florimusa.com.

Either one will show all of our carbon-neutral tile lines, our sustainability paths, the beautiful tile that we make. It’s a fun place to work with an interesting output. It’s very different. I enjoy it. 

Steve Seifried: Well, I appreciate all three of you for giving us your time and expertise and, and energy today, and I wish you the best in your future endeavors, and we’ll see you down the road.

Don Haynes: Thank you. 

Gideon Sarpong: Thank you. 

Shawn Bryant: Thank you. You have a good day.

Cortney Piper: And that’s our show. Thanks for tuning into Energizing Tennessee, powered by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council and FirstBank. We’re glad to be your number-one podcast for news about Tennessee’s advanced energy sector. If you like what you heard, please share it with others or leave a rating and review to catch the latest episodes.

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