Led by faculty and graduate students, the teams provide students with hands-on learning experiences and the opportunity to have a huge impact on communities and businesses throughout the region. Recently performing their 600th assessment, the students of the center have saved their Northwest clients almost $90 million in operating expenses, reducing waste and energy consumption across the region.
Mike Knapp and Peter Kreider, both energy analysts working at the Energy Efficiency Center, share their experiences and describe how working on the teams has enhanced what they are learning in the classroom.
Q: How did you learn about the center?
Mike: I learned about the center through Peter and another friend who were already working at the center. I have been at Oregon State since 2005 and have a serious interest in working for alternative energy and energy efficiency. My desire is to get the center’s name out to students, companies and other people to show the benefits that the center offers. Students get valuable work experience and the companies get fresh eyes on their processes at a low or no cost.
Peter: I learned about the center through a friend and fellow graduate student, he suggested that I get involved because I was interested in renewable energy research projects.
Q: What is your role with the EEC?
Mike: I am an energy analyst and marketing lead, and I’m responsible for developing a financial analysis that incorporates NPV and IRR into the energy assessments. I also help mentor new students working at the center.
Peter: I travel with the team to collect data at the various facilities owned by our clients. After the on site assessment I will review work done by the other team members and compile a final report with our recommendations.
Peter: Real-world application of engineering concepts and principles. That sounds cliché, but I have learned a lot about how to apply the theoretical concepts I’ve learned in academia to real-world problems. I’ve also learned practical things, like how to take data accurately, how to tell if a number related to energy is realistic, and I now know how big a 75 horsepower motor is.
Mike: Learning how a system works in a real-world setting and taking correct data is important. Networking with the various companies, vendors, utility providers and regulatory agencies is valuable for students after they graduate. Working in teams and understanding the importance of the industrial experience, project management, communication and organization is something that I have found to be vitally important as well.
Q: What kind of impact do these assessments have on your clients?
Mike: We provide clients the opportunity to not only see what their low-hanging problems are but to be aware of new technologies that can improve their processes and energy usage. Essentially we try to get people away from the thinking of “we do it this way because we have been doing it since I got here 20 years ago.”
Peter: We give them fresh eyes that look at all aspects of their process. We ask them how they do things, and why they do them. Big picture: we save them money and help them become less wasteful.
Q: What relationships do you develop with these potential employers when you are on an assessment?
Peter: Good ones. The people we work with tell us to apply when we graduate because they are always looking for new engineers. I’ve also made a lot of contacts in other energy related positions, such as utility providers and energy consultants.
Mike: While out on assessments, the clients (potential employers) get to see first-hand how a student is able to handle themselves in a pressure situation; how you work in a team; communicate with personnel; and write an analysis that is coherent and correct. Essentially it is a mini-interview.
Mike: My favorite part of the assessment is being on the assessment trip. We get to talk with fellow team members and get to know each other better. During the site visit, seeing how the companies function is also exciting. Then being able to try and apply my understanding of the situation to find possible energy or production improvements is a challenge but fun at the same time.
Peter: My favorite part is either visits to facilities and learning about their process, which feels like being on an episode of “How It’s Made”, or the exciting phase of the assessment where we discover a big savings opportunity. All of the analysts and the personnel at the facility get excited, and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of that moment.