U.S. Department of Energy Awards $1.6 Million to Georgia Tech for Industrial Assessments

The Georgia Institute of Technology has been awarded $1.6 million by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), to operate an Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) that will serve manufacturers throughout Georgia and North Florida. The award will support five years of funding to assess small- and mid-sized businesses in areas that include energy and water conservation, smart manufacturing, and cybersecurity. Although there are no costs for the assessment, businesses must primarily be located within the geographic region of Georgia and North Florida to qualify.

Participating partners in the IAC program include Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, Research Institute (GTRI), and Enterprise Innovation Institute (EII); as well as Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and Florida State University.

Faculty members and students will complete industrial assessments, for no-cost to the business owners, which will provide students with real-world, in-plant experience via industrial systems, as well as an exceptionally multi-faceted energy engineering education inclusive of certification opportunities.

Support for U.S. Small- to Mid-sized Businesses
The small business sector in America occupies 30-50% of all commercial space, an estimated 20-34 billion square feet, which means lack of energy efficiency can contribute to a lack of business competitiveness. Comas Haynes, lead investigator for the program and principal research engineer within GTRI, is excited about the opportunity to work closely with business owners to discover cost-saving solutions. “We are truly able to make a non-academic impact from an academic setting,” Haynes said. “This is not only solving a problem on paper but also in the real world. Our team of staff and students will look at the economics of the service and why it would make sense and ‘cents’ to implement assessment recommendations.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the goal of its IAC program award is twofold: first, to assist small and medium-sized enterprises 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, to increase their energy efficiency, productivity, sustainability and competitiveness; and second, to help address a growing shortage of engineering professionals with applied energy-related skills.

Approximately 543,000 new businesses are started each month. About half will remain open for five or more years. According to a U.S. Bank study, a whopping 82% of those businesses that fail do so because of cash flow problems which often includes energy-related expenses such as inefficient electrical systems, poorly managed manufacturing systems and threats to networked systems. The assessments executed by the IAC program are expected to have a positive effect on curbing these losses as well which in turn assists workforce development and economic impact.

Additional Georgia Tech faculty who contributed to receipt of the award include Shannon Yee, Assistant Professor - Heat Transfer, Combustion and Energy Systems, School of Mechanical Engineering; Bill Meffert, Sr. Research Engineer – Enterprise Innovation Institute; Ben Wang, Professor – Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute; and Sinan Sinharoy, Extension Professional - Enterprise Innovation Institute. Contributing faculty from Florida A&M and Florida State were, Professors Juan Ordonez (Mechanical Engineering, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering) and Omar Faruque (Electrical Engineering, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering).

About the Strategic Energy Institute
The Georgia Tech Strategic Energy Institute integrates energy activities across the nation's largest technology university – from generation to distribution to use. Whether it’s commercializing a technology to address a specific challenge or designing a roadmap for focusing resources, the Strategic Energy Institute understands the systems, technologies, and context of the continually evolving nature of energy production and use. 


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Brent Verrill, Research Communications Program Manager, SEI