In July, gasoline cost, on average, $3.23 per gallon in the U.S. That compares with $2.27 per gallon in July 2020, and it’s the highest price since October 2014. Electricity prices are rising, too. From June 2020 to May 2021, the average cost of electricity for industrial customers was $0.0689 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). That compares with $0.0673 per kWh from June 2019 to May 2020.
The latter increase may not seem like much, but consider this: According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a manufacturing facility consumes, on average, 95.1 kWh per square foot each year. Thus, an increase of just $0.0016 per kWh translates to $30,432 over the course of a year for a 200,000 square foot assembly plant. That’s enough to hire an entry-level assembler or buy a small cobot.
Engineers don’t usually consider energy costs when specifying and building an assembly line. Reliability, throughput and other operational issues rank more important—and rightly so. Still, in today’s competitive market, no business can overlook any opportunity to reduce costs, so why save money and the planet at the same time?
To that end, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $60 million in funding for its largest-ever cohort of university-based Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs), which assist manufacturers in lowering energy costs and reducing their carbon emissions.
“America’s best and brightest university students are successfully helping local manufacturers reduce pollution, save energy, and cut their electricity bills,” says Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.
The IACs can help U.S. manufacturers save energy, improve productivity, and reduce waste by providing no-cost technical assessments conducted by university-based teams of engineering students and faculty. After a site visit, the IAC team provides a comprehensive report with specific details on opportunities for improving competitiveness identified during the assessment, including rebates and incentives.
The Energy Department has announced $60 million in funding for its largest-ever cohort of university-based Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs), which assist manufacturers in lowering energy costs and reducing their carbon emissions. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy
The IAC program has already conducted nearly 20,000 assessments and made some 150,000 recommendations. On average, assessments identify nearly $140,000 in potential annual savings opportunities.
For example, an IAC team from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln recently did an assessment at a local medical device manufacturer. The company assembles 4 billion blood and urine collection devices each year at a 300,000 square foot facility that employs 563 people. The team made eight recommendations, most of which were easy to implement, such as repairing or replacing steam traps; eliminating leaks in inert gas and compressed air lines and valves; and fixing holes and openings in the building, such as broken windows. If every recommendation were implemented, the company could save $218,597 annually. The company has already implemented some of the recommendations, which has saved $62,950 each year.
What could an IAC team point out at your facility?
The 32 IAC universities are located throughout the country. They include Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ; Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA; Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA; Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI; Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK; Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR; San Francisco State University in San Francisco; and the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT. Read the full list of awarded universities here.
To learn more about the IACs, click here. A collection of publicly available assessment and recommendation data is available online in the IAC Database, which can be searched by industry type, company size, date, products, and energy costs. You can browse that here.