Our plants consume more than 4 million tons of woodchips each year to produce our cellulose specialties products. They provide a market for more than 1 million acres of working forests throughout the Southeast, incentivizing the continued use of those lands for commercial forestry. These working forests provide vital wildlife habitat, aquifer recharge and improve surface water quality.
Prior to returning water to the environment, we treat it in our wastewater treatment facilities, ensuring that it meets or exceeds all state and federal water quality standards. We’ve taken steps to improve water quality at both of our plants including steps to reduce the color of the water from our Jesup, Ga., plant. In Jesup, we’ve invested more than $70 million since 2008 in technology and process improvements that have resulted in a more than 50 percent reduction in color.
Rayonier Advanced Materials is also a leader in water conservation and reuse efforts. The Jesup plant today uses no more water than it did 40 years ago when production was only 55 percent of the current rate. We achieved that through aggressive conservation in which fresh water is used multiple times before it is discharged for secondary treatment.
In 2013, we made the strategic decision to transition away from the fluff pulp market and expand our production capacity of high-purity cellulose specialties by 190,000 metric tons. This expansion introduced new technologies to the production process, resulting in significant energy savings.
We’re constantly working to enhance the technology, techniques and systems used at our facilities in an effort to reduce our energy consumption. Today, our two plants generate more than 90 percent of their own energy requirements. At our Fernandina plant, we also sell excess energy generated to the Florida Public Utilities Company, providing enough low-cost energy to power 1,200 homes, resulting in lower costs for ratepayers.