West Virginia University’s College of Engineering and Mineral Resources will receive $1.5 million over the next five years as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Center program. The grant, a renewal of a program that has been at WVU since 1992, places emphasis on students gaining practical training on core energy efficiency and management concepts.
The IAC program provides undergraduate and graduate engineering students with the opportunity to conduct energy assessments in a broad range of manufacturing facilities, which will prepare them to compete in today’s economy, while helping local companies and factories reduce energy consumption and emissions, save money and become more economically competitive.
“The desired end result is to create the next generation of energy engineers,” said Dr. Bhaskaran Gopalakrishnan, director of the IAC and professor of industrial and management systems engineering. “They will have sound technical knowledge of hands-on energy assessment methods, ISO 50001 energy management certification, in-depth understanding of management systems and business sense, corporate culture, industrial supply chains and sustainability issues so they can hit the road running.”
The grant stipulates that at least 10 to 15 students a year must be trained. The program must also conduct approximately 25 energy assessments annually, while performing extensive follow-up reporting and tracking activities.
In addition to site visits, WVU IAC will also be responsible for promoting interaction with private sector partners that can provide valuable workforce development support, such as scholarship and internship opportunities.
“We have developed excellent contacts over the years with manufacturing facilities in the state and throughout the region, primarily through relationships with our partners, such as the Industries of the Future-West Virginia program and the state’s divisions of Energy, Environmental Protection and Manufacturing Extension Partnership,” said Gopalakrishnan. “With rising energy costs, there will not be a problem finding clients for energy assessments or site visits.
“The relationships with these companies will pave the way for growth in student knowledge and skills through realization of implemented energy efficiency projects,” explained Gopalakrishnan.
The focus on energy efficiency not only provides students with invaluable training, but also results in economic development in the region as companies reduce cost through energy savings and increase their global competitiveness. This project also helps reduce environmental emissions.
“The ultimate objective is to introduce companies, throughout the United States, to proper procedures for energy management and efficiency, and to help them in reducing their energy consumption,” said Dr. Wafik Iskander, assistant director of the IAC and chair of the Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering. “In this project, we partially accomplish this goal through the performance of energy assessments for companies in West Virginia and other neighboring states, but more importantly we work on training and producing energy engineers, who can then work on achieving the main objective.”
“To be considered for this award along with several other leading universities across the nation is a great honor,” said Gopalakrishnan. “It is important for WVU to receive grants such as these because they contribute to economic development, enhanced student training and act as an incubator for research ideas that can result in significant impact to industrial growth and positive climate change. Some of my best research ideas have come when I have been inside a manufacturing facility.”
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CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon