UofL selected for DOE energy efficiency program

Aug. 4, 2021

By Holly Hinson

The University of Louisville’s J.B, Speed School of Engineering has been selected as one of 32 universities to participate in a Department of Energy (DOE) program to help local manufacturers improve their energy efficiency. The DOE investment will aid in the transition to a clean energy economy, building the next-generation energy workforce, and propelling America toward a carbon-free future by 2050.

University of Louisville was granted $2.2 million and will create the UofL Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) for Manufacturing Technical Assistance and Energy Engineering Workforce Development. This new, largest-ever cohort of IACs, including University of Louisville, will focus on improving productivity, enhancing cybersecurity, promoting resiliency planning, and providing training to entities located in disadvantaged communities. Like many UofL projects, the project will utilize a multidisciplinary team to leverage the best and broadest results with the money and resources given.

The UofL project team includes Dean of Speed School Emmanuel Collins; Principal Investigator (PI) Mark McKinley, Civil & Environmental Engineering Professor; Co-PI and Chemical Engineering Professor Mahendra Sunkara; Ed Tackett, Director, Engineering Solutions & Industry Relations; and Lissa McCracken, Executive Director of Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center (KPPC).

Dean Collins’ role in the project is to facilitate the recruitment of underrepresented groups on the project, including females, African-Americans and the Hispanic community.

Mark McGinley, Civil & Environmental Engineering Professor and Principal Investigator on the project, said one of the prime focuses of the UofL IAC will be to train graduate and undergraduate students in providing energy and water use reduction assessments, as well as address cybersecurity services for small and medium size enterprises. “UofL’s Cyber Center will be involved to help improve cybersecurity of all these industrial centers and utilities, which we are learning are vulnerable to cyber hacks,” said McGinley.

UofL plans to also leverage the knowledge and background of the Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center, an entity which has been doing energy assessments like those in the project but at a much smaller scale. “A primary role for the KPP center is to incorporate IAC standards for assessment procedures, lead assessment efforts, recruitment and supervision of co-op students, and recruitment of new industry members,” said McCracken.

All of this work rolls into and builds upon the new graduate program recently introduced by Speed School in Materials Energy through the Conn Center for Renewable Energy.

“We look forward to collaborating with other Speed School partners to help make a workforce-ready pipeline of qualified applicants that will ultimately help Kentucky manufacturers conserve energy, reduce environmental impacts, preserve jobs and enhance overall competitiveness in the Commonwealth.”

Since its inception, the program has provided nearly 20,000 no-cost assessments for small-and-medium-sized manufacturers and more than 147,000 recommendations for improvement measures. IACs typically identify more than $130,000 in potential annual savings opportunity for every manufacturer assessed, nearly $50,000 of which is implemented during the first year following the assessment.

“I’m thrilled that the Department of Energy has chosen to invest in the University of Louisville and its students, selecting it as one of the newest sites for an Industrial Assessment Center,” said U.S. Representative John Yarmuth (KY-03). “The IAC program provides an immense value to students and businesses alike, harnessing the talent of our brightest minds to tackle the energy, environmental, and economic challenges of tomorrow. I’m so proud to support this effort and to know that Louisville will play such an important role in continuing to build the clean energy economy of the future.”