April 11, 2023

Purdue University in Indianapolis’ IAC creates significant savings for Indiana businesses

Engineering students and faculty at the Industrial Assessment Center energized to help small- to medium-sized businesses in Indiana save

INDIANAPOLIS – Energy cost is a major concern for industry. It may not be a stressor for manufacturing giants, which have the budget and personnel to handle their own energy assessments. But what about the small- and medium-sized business owners in Indiana who run the bakery down the street or your favorite local brewery? 

Purdue University in Indianapolis professor Jie Chen, his colleagues and students at the university’s Industrial Assessment Center are working to put Indiana small- to medium-sized business owners’ minds at ease when it comes to energy expenditures.

Thanks to an ongoing grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, the IAC at Purdue University in Indianapolis has trained an energy efficiency workforce to perform over 170 energy audits on small- to medium-sized Indiana businesses since 2011. Under the leadership of engineering faculty with energy audit credentials, a team of highly skilled students conduct energy assessments, which result in comprehensive reports given to each manufacturer with recommendations for improving energy efficiency, reducing waste and increasing productivity. The reports provide energy efficiency recommendations, identify potential savings with detailed calculations, estimate implementation costs and compute payback times.

“Big companies have the capability to hire people strictly to work on energy, but many small to medium-sized enterprises don’t have those resources,” said Chen, IAC director and chair of mechanical and energy engineering at Purdue University in Indianapolis. “The small and medium-sized manufacturers and commercial buildings use a lot of energy, so the IAC outlines the opportunities for those Indiana businesses to save.” 

While each individual manufacturer determines what changes are implemented, the center’s post-assessment surveys have determined the implementation rate of the recommendations has reached more than 50%, a mark that holds major significance in a small-business climate, where profit margins can be notoriously thin. Dating to the center’s creation, recommendations from the IAC team have accounted for a total of more than $20 million in energy cost savings for Indiana businesses.

“The IAC team did a tremendous job with its energy assessment,” said Mary Gordon, director of operations for Electro-Spec Inc. in Franklin, Indiana. “Dr. Chen and his students compiled a comprehensive report that was extremely helpful to our business in identifying ways for us to save both energy and money.”

Ted Funk, Electro-Spec’s facilities manager, said, “The IAC’s ability to make creative and rational decisions on energy savings opportunities based on the data they examined was outstanding.”

The decadelong impact of the IAC on small- to medium-sized Indiana enterprises was initially launched by $1.3 million in DOE funding to establish the center. The IAC has earned two renewal awards since then and was recently granted $100,000 per year over a four-year period to expand its energy assessments to include small- to medium-sized commercial buildings in a 150-mile radius around Indianapolis. Total funding for the center, which was recognized by the Department of Energy as the “exemplar” of the 37 such centers on college campuses across the country, is just shy of $5 million.

About Purdue University in Indianapolis

Purdue University in Indianapolis is a new, fully integrated extension of the West Lafayette flagship campus, expanding the academic rigor and accessible excellence that Purdue is known for to Indiana’s industrial and technological center. As the only public top 10 university, most trusted university and most innovative university in the state of Indiana, Purdue is focused and committed to strengthening its presence in the capital city. Purdue in Indianapolis will reimagine a collaborative platform that connects students, faculty and local businesses to promote breakthrough discoveries and create a new and direct talent pipeline. Realignment of the existing IUPUI partnership is expected to be completed by the start of the fall semester in 2024. Learn more about Purdue’s latest giant leap at https://www.purdue.edu/campuses/indianapolis/. 

Writer/Media contact: Derek Schultz, dcschultz@purdue.edu 

Sources: Jie Chen, Mary Gordon, Ted Funk

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