August 1, 2005
Morgantown, W.Va. – A WVU center for industrial energy conservation was recently recognized as “Center of the Year” by the U.S. Department of Energy for helping small and medium-sized manufacturers find ways to cut their energy bills. The WVU Industrial Assessment Center, or IAC, ranked first among 26 such centers nationwide.
Sandy Glatt, a senior energy project officer for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Industrial Technologies presented the award to IAC Director Ralph Plummer at the annual IAC Directors meeting, July 19, in West Point, New York. The WVU center has finished in the top five ever since the Energy department began ranking the centers about six years ago, Plummer said.
The IAC, based in the Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering (IMSE) in the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, serves manufacturers throughout West Virginia and in bordering portions of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland. The WVU program receives more than $200,000 annually from the U.S. Department of Energy to offer energy assessments free of charge to 25 qualifying small and medium-sized manufacturing facilities annually.
To qualify for the free service, a manufacturer must be within Standard Industrial Codes (SIC) 20-39, generally be located within 150 miles of the IAC, have gross annual sales below $100 million, have fewer than 500 employees at the plant site, have annual energy bills more between $100,000 and $2.5 million, and have no professional in-house staff to perform the assessment.
A team of IMSE students and the director or assistant director travels to the manufacturer’s location to spend an entire day performing the energy assessment that includes intensive energy analysis and diagnostics leading to affordable ideas for cutting energy use and saving money.
According to J.D. Poling, plant manager of Woody Forest Products located in Buckhannon, WV, the recommendations by the WVU IAC for Woody Forest Products have had a significant impact on reducing his company’s natural gas energy costs. After spending one day at the Woody Forest Products facility, the IAC team developed nine specific recommendations for saving energy. The facility has implemented seven of those ideas which has cut the company’s energy costs by ten percent.
Since the IAC’s inception in 1992, Plummer said the program has visited 330 companies and identified more than $17 million in potential energy savings. “That’s quite a payback of taxpayer dollars, about 6 to 1,” he said, noting that the IAC has received approximately $2.8 million in government funding over the years.
The program has been as good for Plummer’s students as for manufacturers. “Students are getting good jobs as a result of their work with the IAC,” he said. They are working at places such as Siemens Building Technologies, Vermont Energy Investment Corp., General Motors, Ford, 3M and others.
Besides playing a critical role in launching students’ careers, the IAC also played a critical role in launching WVU’s popular Industries of the Future—West Virginia program, Plummer said. The IOF-WV idea was conceived by Plummer, Gopalakrishnan, Carl Irwin, IOF-WV co-director, and Denise Swink, a former official at DOE’s Office of Industrial Technologies, while on an IAC visit to a nearby manufacturer.
The IOF-WV program brings together researchers at WVU and national laboratories with manufacturers of all sizes to conduct research on improved processes to conserve energy and minimize waste which saves money and helps West Virginia manufacturers compete in global markets. The program is based in the National Research Center for Coal and Energy at WVU.
“The ‘Center of the Year’ award could not have come at a better time,” said Plummer, professor and former chairman of the IMSE department. “After 37 years at WVU, I will be retiring this year. It’s nice to know that we’re at the top of our game,” he said.
B. “Gopala” Gopalakrishnan will be assuming leadership of the center beginning August 16, 2005. Gopalakrishnan has been the IAC’s assistant director since the program started 13 years ago. “I am proud to become the new director and am committed to ensuring that this program will continue to provide valuable industrial energy conservation research, student education and training, and economic development to the region,” said Gopalakrishnan.
To learn more about the WVU IAC, visit http://www2.cemr.wvu.edu/~wwwiac/.