Page One

Consulting firm seeks to save energy

By John Geluardi Daily Planet Staff
Wednesday February 14, 2001

OAKLAND – An innovative, former restaurant owner and an evolutionary biologist have joined forces to consult with businesses, schools and governments on earth-friendly energy-saving techniques. 

Former restaurateur Walter Harmon and biologist David Seaborg called a news conference Tuesday to announce their newly-formed consulting firm, which is so new that it doesn’t yet have a name. The company will assist large energy consumers to drastically cut energy costs and at the same time reduce environmental excesses that contribute to global warming.  

“The only energy source we have is conservationism,” Harmon said. “It’s the only one that makes sense globally, environmentally and economically.” 

Harmon, who had been retired for 10 years, brings practical experience to the partnership. He was the owner of Merritt Restaurant and Bakery in Oakland during the energy crisis in the early 1970s. The news conference was actually a tour of the energy-saving equipment installed at the restaurant. 

Interested in cutting his energy costs in the 18,000-square-foot restaurant-bakery, Harmon first improved the lighting scheme. “Incandescent light is about 5 percent illumination and 95 percent heat,” Harmon said as he pointed overhead to circular florescent tubes. “We switched to circle lights which are 85 percent illumination and 15 percent heat.” 

Harmon also reduced the number of florescent tubes in the lighting fixtures in the kitchen and storage areas. “We were able to reduce our energy use for lighting by 74 percent and still maintain the same illumination,” he said. 

After upgrading the lighting system he turned to refrigeration and heating. Harmon had a system of 39 compressors supporting a fleet of regular refrigerators, 10 walk-ins, and a variety of counter coolers and cooled display cases. 

He made use of the heat the compressors generated by re-routing it to a series of 100 gallon heat-recovery units on the roof thereby cutting out the energy needed to heat the hundreds of gallons of hot water the restaurant uses every day. 

Harmon began saving money immediately and was able to recover his investment in four years. 

“New technology has made the equipment smaller and the cost lower,” Harmon said. “With the higher cost of energy, businesses can recoup investments twice as fast.” 

Seaborg, the son of Glenn Seaborg, the developer of plutonium who was an Associate Director of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, said the consulting company will advise restaurants on solid waste and the reuse of water. 

“We can help restaurants with cutting carbon dioxide use, cutting solid waste and cutting water use,” Seaborg said. 

Seaborg, who lives in Walnut Creek, is the founder of the World Rain Forest Fund and says he is motivated by his desire to halt global warming. “Global warming is real. The last decade was the hottest ever recorded,” he said. “The Golden Toad of Costa Rican rain forest is the first species that is extinct because of global warming.” 

Any profit he makes from the consulting business will be put into the World Rain Forest Fund, Seaborg said. 

The first company he and Harmon plan to work with is the world-renowned Chez Panisse. The restaurant has given the consultants a verbal agreement, Seaborg said. The Daily Planet was unable to reach restaurant management for confirmation.