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MU energy audit workshops meet with success

IAC employee Mary Catherine Meriage checks for air or steam leaks with an ultrasonic detector. Photo by Melinda Sheffler

While an audit that scrutinizes a company’s financial status can potentially reduce its assets, an energy audit by the MU Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) just might save a mid-size industrial plant upwards of $55,000 per year.

One of 26 energy assessment centers funded by the U.S. Department of Energy nationwide, MU’s new IAC—run by the College of Engineering—hit the ground running last fall. The group has completed seven audits and will conduct its fourth workshop April 11 in Columbia, co-sponsored by the Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Centers and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

February audit workshops in Kansas City and St. Louis were well attended and have initiated audit requests from more than a dozen industry representatives attending the presentations at each site. At the events, IAC Director Bin Wu, CoE professor of industrial and manufacturing systems, begins with an overview of the process. His associates, including lead graduate student engineer, Chatchia Pinthuprapa, introduce tools, techniques, and areas of analysis.

“The program is extremely organized and it is doing very well,” said Pinthuprapa of the projects generated from the workshops. He called the workshops “dynamic” and added, “The businesses are very impressed with what we are doing.”

Pinthuprapa has also been involved in the audits, each of which is conducted by a team of at least five people—two professors, a graduate student, and undergraduate students who are doing internships with the center.

“There will be an issue we can easily detect, like the efficiency of the fan in the HVAC (heating and cooling) system and the temperature control system. A variable speed drive can help it run more efficiently and will save money,” said Pinthuprapa. “We will always find something new and raise their awareness.”

After an on-site audit work is completed, the team takes the information and data they have gathered back to the center and spends about a month working on the assessment. Students are involved in every aspect of the audit so they will have a broad-based background once they complete their internships.

“We come up with the dollars they can save and the simple pay-back period. Our audit is very easy to understand. We can make recommendations and they can see it,” Pinthuprapa explained.

“It’s been so fun to work on this. I really enjoy it,” he added. “The people we do the audits for are very grateful. They are very happy.”

The IAC’s Columbia energy audit workshop will run from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. April 11 in W1004 Lafferre Hall, along Sixth Street at Stewart Road. The cost for businesses is $150. MU faculty and students may attend for free.  Call 882-7096 for more information.


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