The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has announced regional Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs) at 28 higher education institutions from 25 states across the country, including one at Boise State University. This represents the second time Boise State has received funding for this program. Engineering professor John Gardner is director of the regional IAC.
Boise State is slated to receive $1.225 million over five years, subject to congressional appropriations. The award represents a close partnership with the University of Idaho College of Engineering. Between the two schools, more than 70 students have been trained in the specialty of industrial energy management.
The centers will provide site-specific recommendations to small manufacturers with opportunities to improve productivity, secure information, reduce waste and lower energy costs while providing training for undergraduate and graduate engineering students in manufacturing processes, energy assessment procedures and energy management systems.
Led by engineering faculty, students will perform on-site assessments at small- and medium-sized manufacturing business partners. These currently are defined as having gross annual sales below $100 million, fewer than 500 employees. and annual energy bills between $100,000 and $2.5 million. In exchange for hosting the hands-on assessment training opportunities, these small- and medium-sized manufacturers receive an assessment that the company can use to improve their operations.
In Boise State’s first five-year award, nearly 100 facilities were visited throughout the region. From those visits, recommendations were made which, if implemented, would lead to $4.4 million per year in energy costs savings. Of the recommendations that have been implemented, savings amounts to $1.1 million per year.
The IAC program has grown over the years to offer newly expanded services and encouraged applicants to propose creative approaches to providing IAC services in the areas of innovative “smart” manufacturing, cybersecurity, water/wastewater and energy management systems. When implemented by the company, the recommended actions will result in energy savings, potential enhancements and related information technologies for these manufacturers at the heart of the U.S. economy.
“Energy efficiency remains the nation’s lowest cost energy resource — one that offers cost savings, improved competitiveness and jobs,” said Kathleen Hogan, deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency. “The IACs help address a growing shortage of engineering professionals with applied energy-related skills and train the next generation of energy engineers while bringing efficiency, waste and water improvements to a broad range of small and medium manufacturing firms.”
The financial assistance awards will be in the form of cooperative agreements. Other universities selected for IACs include Georgia Tech, Arizona State, Oregon State, Purdue, Clemson and others.