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Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Industrial Technologies Program (ITP), the Industrial Assessment Center program has been providing small- and medium-sized industrial plants with energy assessments to identify opportunities to improve productivity, reduce waste, and save energy for over 30 years. Assessments are performed at no-cost to the manufacturer by local teams of engineering faculty and students from 26 participating universities across the United States. The assessment begins with a university-based IAC team conducting a survey of the eligible plant, followed by a one- or two-day site visit where engineering measurements are taken as the basis for assessment recommendations. Following the site visit, the team performs a detailed analysis for specific recommendations with related estimates of costs, performance, and payback times. Within 60 days, a confidential report detailing the analysis, findings, and recommendations is sent to the plant. Follow-up calls are made to the plant manager within six months to verify recommendations that will be implemented.
IACs offer an extremely valuable service to small- and mid-sized manufacturers—providing expertise to a segment of the manufacturing industry that do not possess the resources to analyze and quantify energy savings within their plants. In doing such, the IACs are helping to increase the competitiveness of the American manufacturing industry. Plants that have taken advantage of the free, no-obligation assessments have realized direct energy- and resource-saving benefits.
Not only does the IAC program supply industry with the opportunity to improve energy, performance, and productivity, but it also provides a longer-term benefit — a trained workforce of energy-savvy engineers who will contribute to improving industrial energy efficiency throughout their careers. More than an energy program, IAC is a workforce development program that serves to fulfill the majority of the spectrum for a new energy workforce. Through partnerships with the 26 participating universities across the nation, IACs are helping to advance the science and knowledge base of energy efficiency. In addition to gaining hands-on field experience performing assessments, numerous IAC students and directors publish papers in various journals and present their work at conferences. IACs are not supported to perform research; however, individuals independently explore many topics and problems after directly encountering them on assessments. IAC produces outstanding engineers that are ready for careers in project engineering and management, product research and development, energy consulting and engineering services, energy-related design and construction, training and outreach, as well as energy policy. To date, more than 2,855 engineering students have participated in the program.1 IAC graduates are well-known for their expertise in industrial energy efficiency and are in such high demand that most leave the program with numerous job offers in hand.
One former student, Vitelio Silva, completed 25 assessments during his 2 years at the University of Florida IAC program.2 As the lead student engineer, Silva coordinated teams and conducted engineering and economic analyses for many recommendations that resulted in energy efficiency, waste management, and productivity savings opportunities worth more than $3.5 million.3 Additionally, he was speaker and co-author of the research paper, "A New Approach to Motors Efficiency Estimation in an Industrial Energy Management System," which was presented at the 2007 World Energy Engineering Congress in Atlanta, Georgia. Upon graduation, Silva was hired by Johnson Controls Inc. as a senior performance assurance engineer. In less than two years, he has coordinated, verified, and reported more than $9.5 million in project savings and cost avoidance, in addition to conducting performance measurement and verification services, including $73 million in performance contract guarantees and $3.3 million in service agreements.4 The training and hands-on experience Silva gained through the IAC program enabled him to be productive from his first day on the job, allowing him to excel in his current position at Johnson Controls.
Another alumnus, Matan Marom, spent five years at the Syracuse University IAC. During his time in the program, Marom, participated in 36 assessments and developed an in-depth automation program, along with other students.5 The program, designed and built on a VBA backbone in Excel, performs calculations and generates a formatted, editable Microsoft Word document that includes common assessment recommendations (ARs) and serves as a reliable starting point for writing distinctive, more challenging ARs. After graduation, Marom went to work for global energy provider Schneider Electric as an application engineer. Marom's supervisor immediately recognized the value of his IAC experience, which he demonstrated in a recent project. He developed and managed an in-depth energy study at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) that was designed to identify cost-effective energy-saving resource-reducing strategies throughout the lab. The study resulted in $1,687,000 in recommended energy- and cost-savings for ORNL.6 The IAC program allowed Marom to gain a solid background and foundation for his current position, where he has added significant value to the company.
In addition to performing in key positions within large organizations, numerous IAC alumni are starting their own energy service companies. Cascade Energy Engineering Inc., a firm specializing in industrial energy efficiency consulting, was founded by Oregon State University IAC alumni Marcus Wilcox; Energy & Resource Solutions Inc., an energy engineering and consulting firm, was founded by University of Massachusetts alumni Gary Epstein; and Red Wolf Associates, a firm that provides engineering services and analysis solutions to industrial, commercial, non-profit and government facilities, was founded by North Carolina State University alumni Joe Sinodis and Nathan Block — just to name a few.7
ITP's IAC program is a tremendous opportunity for college engineering students interested in entering an energy-related field. It offers immense experience for undergraduate and graduate students looking to gain real world perspective and practical understanding of manufacturing processes in a variety of industries. IACs are producing the next generation of highly competent energy engineers, which is evident when looking at the accomplishments of current alumni.
This article appeared in Energy Matters, the newsletter of the U.S. Department of Energy's Industrial Technologies Program.