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Posted 08.23.06


New MU Center Will Help Businesses Conserve Energy, Reduce Costs

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Rising fuel costs and the need for alternative sources of energy have dominated news headlines in recent months. With solutions to the energy problems in high demand, researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia have turned their attention to helping businesses deal with the issue. Their efforts have resulted in a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the formation of an MU center aimed at helping medium-sized manufacturing and industrial businesses use energy more efficiently.

Bin Wu, Sanjeev Khanna.MU, through its College of Engineering, will receive $900,000 ($180,000 over a five-year period) from the DOE for the establishment of the Missouri Industrial Assessment Center (Missouri IAC), which will be run by the College's Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Department in collaboration with the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. Total funding of the project will exceed more than $1 million.

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The center will be one of 26 nationwide and one of six new centers being funded by the DOE. MU researchers, along with eight student employees, will provide free energy efficiency studies and offer strategies to help businesses throughout Missouri and bordering parts of Illinois, Iowa and Kansas reduce their operational costs. Bin Wu, professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, will direct the center, which officially opens Sept. 1.

"This gives us an opportunity to work on something we're all really passionate about - that is, energy conservation. It's such a worthwhile cause," said Wu, noting in addition to audits and assessments, the center also will conduct research, educate students and perform outreach relating to energy efficiency. "With this program, we will be able to reach out to the community and to industries in the state and provide services in energy efficiency and productivity."

Annually, the center will provide assessments for about 15 businesses which pay up to $2.5 million a year in energy expenses. In developing strategies, Mizzou's team of researchers will audit the company's energy consumption and review operational factors such as their manufacturing processes, air conditioning and heating systems or overall lighting consumption. The assessments will include written surveys and numerous suggestions for conserving energy and saving dollars.

"With energy costs going through the roof, a 10 or 15 percent reduction can add up to quite a large sum," said Sanjeev Khanna, who is a mechanical and aerospace engineering associate professor and the center's assistant director. "Often, it's a matter of conventional wisdom that if you walk out of a room, you turn off the lights. But, we forget and that translates into energy."

Recommendations, said Cerry Klein, chairman of the industrial and manufacturing systems department, may be as simple as changing from incandescent to fluorescent light bulbs or something as sophisticated as installing a new boiler or air compressor system. Companies adopting the suggestions save about $55,000 a year on average, according to the DOE's IAC Web site.

"Energy is currently at the forefront," Klein said. "Any kind of savings helps."



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