Electrical energy is one of the most important commodities in the world. In a sense, electricity fuels the modern progression of our lives, powering household lights, electronics, cooling, heating and general appliances. Beyond everyday home uses, manufacturing companies rely heavily upon electrical energy. Even with such a dependency, many companies find it difficult to maximize their energy efficiency. As a result, many businesses expend more money and resources than necessary. The Industrial Assessments: Energy and Resource Efficiency Audits Creative Inquiry project, led by Dr. Michael Dale in the Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, is working with Clemson University’s Industrial Assessment Center to conduct energy audits around the upstate.
The team serves as a conduit by providing energy assessments to local South Carolina manufacturers. To qualify they must be small or medium-sized companies within a 150-mile radius of Clemson’s campus.
The typical energy assessment begins with a comprehensive tour of the manufacturing facility. Then the students examine energy systems, collect data, run calculations and provide the company with a report including useful recommendations for maximizing energy efficiency and saving money. “From the day of the assessment we then have 60 days to turn in our report to DOE [Department of Energy],” Dale explains, “and we’ve crunched the numbers on all of the data we’ve collected to calculate how much energy they could save annually on each of these different systems, how much it’s going to cost to implement and then calculate a simple payback time.”
Clemson University Facilities is an important collaborator. Facilities provides an introduction to the various energy systems. This familiarizes students with the systems they will encounter while conducting assessments. For example, students accompanied facilities while they evaluated the new and recently retrofitted lights in the Cooper Library and Fike Recreation Center.
This Creative Inquiry project serves as an excellent professional development experience. Engineering students in this field are able to interface with clients which enhances their interpersonal skills as well as professional branding. Ben Snelson, a junior environmental engineering major, praises the experiences with the team. “It’s invaluable. Learning about production and facility in class is way different than actually going and seeing it. It puts everything into real perspective,” Snelson says. This Creative Inquiry project is successfully improving energy efficiency at industries across the upstate.
Decipher Magazine is produced by a team of Clemson undergraduate students to highlight the accomplishments of their peers in Creative Inquiry—Clemson’s unique brand of Undergraduate Research.