Heffington honored for energy conservation work

Dr. Warren M. Heffington, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, was honored July 24 with a Distinguished Service Award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy division.

Heffington has directed Texas A&M’s Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) since its establishment 25 years ago. Texas A&M’s IAC is one of 26 such centers at universities around the country as part of the DOE’s Industrial Technologies Program.Dr. Warren M. Heffington holding award

Heffington, who is stepping down as IAC director, received the award “in recognition of 25 years of service to the Industrial Technologies Program and Industrial Assessment Centers.” Present at the ceremony were two two former IAC members (pictured), Michaela Martin, now at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Darin Nutter, now at the University of Arkansas.

Since its inception, the IAC educated students on how to successfully apply energy conservation techniques in real-world situations. The center, which on average has about 15 Aggie engineering students working for it each year, provides no-cost studies of manufacturing plants within 150 miles of College Station, analyzing a plant's energy, waste and productivity issues.

Students visit various businesses and conduct a one-day walkthrough analysis and then prepare a report for the company, making specific recommendations to the plants concerning energy cost reduction, waste cost reduction and productivity enhancing practices the plant can implement.

While plants benefit from the possible cost reductions, students who do the analysis benefit from hands-on training and gain valuable industry experience.

IAC gives student workers conservation-based attitudes and skills, and when they graduate many go to work in conservation. The students work for wages not grades, and their schedules are based on a government contract, not directly on their semester beginning and end.

More than 200 engineers have passed through Texas A&M’s IAC, making it one of the most successful of the 26 university-run programs.

"Some really strong Texas Aggie student engineers have worked for the center over the years," Heffington said. "As the backbone of the center they naturally caused the Texas A&M IAC to show up well when it came time to compare us with others around the nation."

To date, the IAC has made 602 site visits. IAC has conducted visits to most of the industries in Bryan and College Station, but the majority of its work has been done in the Houston area. To date, the center has recommended conservation projects with savings of more than $64 million per year, with data showing that plants have realized about $32 million per year in cost savings.