West Virginia University’s Industrial Assessment Center has received a United States Department of Agriculture Grant to help rural business and farm owners reduce energy consumption and increase profit margins.
The effort, made possible through the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program, which helps farms and small businesses right-size their energy systems and helps with the installation costs for renewable energy equipment, will be led by Ashish Nimbarte and Bhaskaran Gopalakrishnan, assistant director and director of the IAC, respectively.
“Small, rural business is America’s economic heart,” said Gopalakrishnan. “Finding ways to reduce their operating cost through energy efficiency is paramount to increasing their competitiveness, which will result in job and economy growth in West Virginia.”
The Industrial Assessment Center, housed within WVU’s Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering, will use the $100,000 grant to provide 50 businesses with complete energy audits to identify ways they can save energy, reduce waste and improve productivity. Once the audit is complete, the businesses can then apply for USDA REAP Energy Efficiency Improvement Grants, which covers up to 25 percent of the cost of energy efficient lighting, equipment upgrades and building improvements.
According to Nimbarte, audits will begin in late August and run through May 2018.
“Small businesses, including agricultural producers and farms, employ a significant portion of the West Virginia’s private workforce,” said Nimbarte. “This USDA project is expected to result in energy savings and reduction in environmental emissions, significantly impacting the bottom line and future growth of these businesses.”
Project partners include the West Virginia Division of Energy, Natural Capital Investment Fund, Downstream Strategies, LLC and the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection.
The Industrial Assessment Center at WVU is one of 24 centers around the country funded by the United States Department of Energy to provide no-cost energy assessments to small and mid-sized manufacturers.