A Tennessee Tech engineering program has received a $2.3 million dollar investment from the United States Department of Energy.
Tech is one of 32 universities across the nation selected to take part in the DOE Industrial Assessment Centers program, offering no-cost energy efficiency recommendations to small and medium-sized manufacturers and water treatment facilities.
“Tennessee Tech is the only university in Tennessee that has had this Industrial Assessment Center for the past 15 years,” said Dr. Ethan Languri, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Tennessee Tech. “We’ve just been selected for the next five years. Tech has a history of providing amazing education in engineering and the results speak for themselves.”
The program is designed to assist manufacturers with fewer than 500 employees. Those interested in an assessment answer a detailed questionnaire, submit energy equipment information and the past 12 months of utility costs.
“We have a team composed of faculty and students trained to go over detailed engineering data and come up with preliminary ideas where we can save them energy, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and save them money,” Languri said.
After the initial assessment, the team visits the facility utilizing state-of-the-art equipment to collect and record data, sometimes for a week or more. It takes about two months to put together a final report of suggestions and recommendations.
“We show how they are going to save in terms of energy costs, reduce carbon dioxide and it’s more secure and more sustainable,” said Languri. “We show our equations and all of those come from our Tech students, which surprises many plant managers that we are capable to do those.”
Twenty students will take part in the program this year; two doctoral students, three master’s students and 15 undergraduates. While one goal of the program is saving companies energy and money, Languri says another goal is preparing Tech students for the future workforce.
“It’s an amazing experience for students,” said Languri. “The level of confidence after a few sessions of running those assessments as a lead student is huge. IAC students
land much more secure jobs at a higher salary rate. Many have their offer a year ahead of time. They are very, very successful.”
The Tech IAC performs around 20 assessments a year, primarily in Tennessee but also in other states. After six assessments, students receive a certificate from DOE, showing qualification to be independent in terms of energy assessments.
According to the DOE, the program nationwide has performed nearly 20,000 no-cost assessments, which typically identify an average of more than $130,000 in potential annual savings for every manufacturer assessed.
“The level of professionalism and willingness that your group demonstrated during the past few months was outstanding,” said Mario Aguilera, technology development senior manager for Schott Gemtron, whose assessment was completed by the Tech IAC in July. “This assessment will be used as a reference to implement similar studies in our sister sites within the North America region.”
“It’s a program where the students have a leading role,” said Languri. “I enjoy being part of something that is not only helpful to companies and manufacturers but also does so much for our students.”