The U.S. Department of Energy announced Tuesday it would give $1.5 million to the University of Kentucky to train engineering students to become industrial energy efficiency experts.
In total, more than $30 million was being awarded to 24 universities in 23 states.
The grant will be spread over five years and create what the Department of Energy has dubbed an Industrial Assessment Center, said Larry Holloway, director of UK's Power and Energy Institute of Kentucky.
The centers nationwide train students "to be able to understand about energy usage in industry, how to improve energy efficiency and those kinds of things," Holloway said. The students then take those skills and visit companies to provide assessments of ways they can improve energy usage.
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Holloway said he thought UK's application stood out because of the university's various technical centers, such as the Institute for Sustainable Manufacturing, that have established relationships with area industries.
Not only will UK be able to more easily identify companies that could benefit from the service, it will be able to use what the other centers have gleaned from working with the companies, he said.
The federal grant comes as the cities of Lexington and Louisville also embark on the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement, or BEAM, that will focus on creating jobs in advanced manufacturing.
"This very much addresses those concerns and issues such as how do we end up helping area industry become more competitive," said Holloway, who is also chairman of UK's electrical and computer engineering department. "When you look at the kind of clients that we'll be helping, we'll be working with automotive companies and other manufacturers."
Scott Shapiro, the point person for the BEAM project in Lexington Mayor Jim Gray's office, praised UK for the grant.
"There are lots of things going on at both UK and (the University of Louisville) that support the notion that the Bluegrass can be a world-class advanced manufacturing region," he said. "This is yet another example of that."