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College of Engineering selected to run regional energy conservation center

CoE Professor Bin Wu, head of the new MU Industrial Assessment Center, uses a remote sensor to check the insulation on a heating pipe. Pipe insulation is a typical culprit in energy inefficiency.

Greater economic prosperity may be as close as the nearest light bulb for many Midwestern manufacturers.

So says MU’s new Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) team, one of only 26 centers across the nation recently selected and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The MU center, run by the CoE Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering Department in collaboration with the CoE Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, will officially open as a resource and service center for industrial energy efficiency on Sept. 1.

“This gives us an opportunity to work on something we’re all really passionate about—that is, energy conservation,” said Bin Wu, an industrial and manufacturing systems engineering professor who will lead the center. “Through this program, we will be able to reach out to the community and to the industries in this state.”

The new CoE center will perform free energy assessments for small or medium–sized manufacturers in the region, defined as those that pay between $100,000 and $2.5 million annually for energy. MU will receive $180,000 annually over the next five years to operate the center, which will promote energy efficiency through education and outreach programs as well as through research into new energy–saving techniques and the industrial energy audits.

The new center will audit at least 15 manufacturing plants each year, Wu said.

Each IAC assessment will include a written survey, an on–site review of the plant and a list of specific energy–saving recommendations based on a detailed analysis of the plant’s energy profile.

Those recommendations may call for measures as simple as exchanging fluorescent light bulbs for incandescent bulbs or as significant as the installation of a new air compressor system, said Cerry Klein, chairman of the industrial and manufacturing systems department. Plants that heed such energy–saving suggestions save about $55,000 per year on average, according to the Department of Energy’s IAC Web site.

“Even 10 or 15 percent in energy costs savings can add up to quite a sum for the industries,” noted Sanjeev Khanna, a mechanical and aerospace engineering associate professor serving as IAC’s assistant director.

Contact Professor Bin Wu for more information