The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced approximately $35 million in funding, subject to congressional appropriations, to assist small- and medium-sized U.S. manufacturers with increasing their energy efficiency, productivity, sustainability and competitiveness and to help address the shortage of engineering professionals with applied energy-related skills. The Industrial Assessment Centers (IAC) program provides hands-on training and extensive education for undergraduate and graduate engineering students in manufacturing processes, energy assessment procedures, and energy management systems.
Led by engineering faculty, the selected IACs will perform on-site assessments at small- and medium-sized manufacturing business partners, currently defined as having gross annual sales below $100 million, fewer than 500 employees, and annual energy bills between $100,000 and $2.5 million. Energy, productivity, water-resource use, and waste assessments will be conducted by students and faculty of the IACs as a service to the participating companies. In exchange for hosting the hands-on assessment training opportunities for students, these small- and medium-sized manufacturers receive an assessment that the company can use to improve their operations. When implemented, the recommended actions will result in energy and water savings, waste reduction, opportunities for smart manufacturing, and potential enhancements to cyber security and related information technologies, as well as sustainability and productivity improvements for these manufacturers at the heart of the U.S. economy.
The Energy Department plans to select approximately 20 to 30 universities, along with partnering organizations, as IACs based on a competitive selection process. Projects will receive between $1.25 million and $1.75 million for a total of approximately $35 million over five years. These financial assistance awards will be in the form of cooperative agreements. Applications are due by May 19, 2016.
The Energy Department currently funds 24 IACs across the country coordinated by DOE staff and a DOE-selected field manager. Over the past 40 years in partnership with small- and medium-sized manufacturers across the nation, the IAC program has provided more than 17,000 assessments and over 130,000 recommendations for energy-saving measures. On average, an IAC assessment leads to a 5-7% annual energy savings and productivity improvement for the partner company.