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Energy engineering students help local companies save on energy costs

Energy engineering students help local companies save on energy costs
Energy engineering students conducting an energy audit at Kurtz Brothers in Clearfield, Pa. Image: Denise Bechdel
April 29, 2014

A group of Penn State energy engineering students recently teamed with the University’s Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP) to conduct on-site energy audits for two Pennsylvania businesses as part of a senior research project. The audits are being used to help the companies save money by identifying ways to conserve energy and reduce waste in their industrial facilities.

“I thoroughly enjoyed both assessment experiences, said Denzel John, a bachelor’s degree student in energy engineering. “An engineering student seldom has the opportunity to conduct realistic career-based tasks through classes … (since) career development is often reserved for summer internships, but this class allowed me and my peers to get hands on experience in a thriving field during a standard semester.”

The students’ first visit took place at Lycoming Engines, a company that manufactures piston aircraft engines in Williamsport, Pa. There, the students conducted a building envelope energy audit to assess the level of thermal loss through the building’s envelope. A second visit took place at Kurtz Brothers, a school supply manufacturing company in nearby Clearfield, Pa. While at this facility, the students assessed an air compressor system for air leaks. The compressor is used to pump air to the various machines that move and separate paper for the construction of notepads. The students found approximately five leaks and will deliver a technical report to the company that outlines their finding measurements and recommendations for fixing the problem. “Detecting and eliminating leaks along air compressor lines assists in up keeping the efficiency of an air compressor system,” John explained. “Increased efficiency results in increased energy and utility savings.”

Along with John, other energy engineering students participating in the energy assessments included Bou-Yu Chen, Kyle Haab, Anthony Talarico and Jonathan Wise. Both excursions were arranged through PennTAP, a Penn State Outreach program designed to help Pennsylvania companies improve their competitiveness by providing technical assistance and expertise to help resolve specific technical needs. The students presented their findings as part of their Energy Engineering Senior Research Project coursework. A mandatory class for seniors majoring in energy engineering, this course requires students to conduct an independent research project from start to finish. Throughout the semester, students are expected to review existing literature related to their topic, design and conduct appropriate experiments and perform a detailed analysis of their results. The project culminates with a final paper and presentation that outlines their research objectives, approach and ultimate findings.

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