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MU Industrial Assessment Center Saves Companies Thousands, Trains Future Energy Efficiency Experts

Tue, 09/27/2011 - 1:23pm
EurekAlert

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The average yearly energy savings for companies utilizing the University of Missouri Industrial Assessment Center (MoIAC) is $80,000. However, the true cost savings are immeasurable because the center educates the future leaders of energy conservation.

To help educate those future leaders, the U.S. Department of Energy has recently awarded a $1.5 million grant to the MoIAC for the next five years. Bin Wu, director of the MoIAC and professor of industrial engineering in the MU College of Engineering, said the award process indicates the program's impact on a business' bottom line.

"The immediate impact of our energy audits of companies is substantial; $80,000 a year in energy savings is really equal to $800,000 a year in new sales, assuming an average profit margin of ten percent," said Wu. "What may be more significant is that more than 400 students will show future employers how to be leaders in energy efficiency. This funding allows us to train and educate even more students."

MoIAC helps regional companies by conducting free energy assessments while training students simultaneously. A team of faculty members and students reviews the company's utility bills, visits the site, identifies opportunities to save energy and submits a recommendation report to the company. The report includes 10 to 20 recommendations focusing on areas that consume a great amount of energy, such as compressed air systems, motors and lighting. The recommendation list notes the costs to make the switch, as well as savings the company can expect. Within a year, the center follows up with the company to see which recommendations have been taken, as well as the actual cost savings. Energy cost savings typically cover the cost of making the change within less than a year.

Wu estimates that at least 8,000 small- to medium-sized manufacturing companies could benefit from energy assessments in Missouri. He encourages students to join the MoIAC, because every person, company or home could benefit from energy efficiency knowledge. Future engineers also will learn the new international building code guidelines for energy efficiency that will impact their future careers.

"I am telling every student to take these energy efficient recommendations to their job and show that they know what they're talking about," Wu said. "Some of our graduates are already heading energy efficiency efforts at companies around the world. The job market is there, and there is a real need right now and in the future. It's a win-win-win situation, because the student benefits, the company benefits, and our environment benefits."

The MoIAC grant is part of a U.S. Department of Energy grant announcement of more than $30 million for 24 universities in 23 states across the country to train undergraduate- and graduate-level engineering students in manufacturing efficiency to help them become the nation's next generation of industrial energy efficiency experts.

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