TEES, Texas A&M receive $1.5 million to train industrial energy efficiency experts

September 16, 2011
| By: Aubrey Bloom

Sept. 16, 2011 - Texas A&M University and the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) have received $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) to train the next generation of industrial energy efficiency experts.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has announced more than $30 million for 24 universities in 23 states across the country to train undergraduate- and graduate-level engineering students in manufacturing efficiency. Each school - including Texas A&M - will receive $200,000 to $300,000 per year for up to five years to help university teams to gain practical training on core energy management concepts through DOE's successful Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) program.

The Industrial Assessment Center program enables promising engineering students around the country to conduct energy assessments in a broad range of manufacturing facilities, providing skills and experience that prepares the students to compete in today's economy while helping local companies and factories to reduce energy waste, save money and become more economically competitive.

"This industrial efficiency training program opens the door to good jobs in a growing, global sector for thousands of energy-savvy students while promoting real, boots-on-the-ground progress toward our transition to a clean energy economy," Chu said. "The centers will provide a boost to the next-generation of American workers as well as to the businesses with which they work."

Through these university-based Industrial Assessment Centers, engineering students will receive extensive training in industrial processes, energy assessment procedures, and energy management principles, which will be put to use working directly with small and medium-sized industrial and manufacturing facilities in the surrounding communities. Under the program, each Industrial Assessment Center will be expected to train at least 10 to 15 students per year, conduct approximately 20 energy assessments annually, and perform extensive follow-on reporting, tracking, implementation, and management-improvement activities.

In addition to conducting assessments at industrial plants, each Industrial Assessment Center will be expected to promote interaction with private sector partners that could provide valuable workforce development support, such as scholarships and internship opportunities.

Since its inception 25 years ago, Texas A&M Engineering's IAC has educated more than 200 engineering students on how to successfully apply energy conservation techniques in real-world situations. The center, which on average has about 15 Aggie engineering students working for it each year, provides no-cost studies of manufacturing plants within 150 miles of College Station, analyzing a plant's energy, waste and productivity issues.

Dr. Bryan Rasmussen, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M, currently directs the center.

Students visit various businesses and conduct a one-day walkthrough analysis and then prepare a report for the company, making specific recommendations to the plants concerning energy cost reduction, waste cost reduction and productivity enhancing practices the plant can implement.

While plants benefit from the possible cost reductions, students who do the analysis benefit from hands-on training and gain valuable industry experience. IAC gives student workers conservation-based attitudes and skills, and when they graduate many go to work in conservation. The students work for wages not grades, and their schedules are based on a government contract, not directly on their semester beginning and end.

To date, the IAC has made more than 600 site visits. IAC has conducted visits to most of the industries in Bryan and College Station, but the majority of its work has been done in the Houston area. To date, the center has recommended conservation projects with savings of more than $64 million per year, with data showing that plants have realized about $32 million per year in cost savings.

DoE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy invests in clean energy technologies that strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. Learn more about DoE's efforts to contribute practical solutions for some of the nation's top energy challenges through a combination of transformative research and development and targeted education and assistance in the industrial and manufacturing sectors.

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