Energy department seeks more efficiency in manufacturing

From electric cars to solar panels, demand for energy-efficient products has grown significantly in recent decades. Now, however, it’s not just consumer and industrial products that are going green, but the companies who make them.


In early May 2016, the Energy Department called for proposals for a new Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute, tasked with developing ways boost energy efficiency in manufacturing.

The new institute, known as the Modular Chemical Process Intensification Institute, is the fourth in a series of institutes launched by the Energy Department within the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI).

U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz explained the reasoning behind this latest initiative in the official announcement, saying: “This new institute will help America maintain its leadership in developing chemical manufacturing processes that can make our industries more energy efficient, protect our air and water, and help reduce the impacts of climate change.”


Making manufacturing greener

The Energy Department’s new institute will focus on chemical manufacturing, finding ways to streamline complex processes like mixing, reaction, and separation by merging them into a single step. However, this is just one of many ways manufacturers are reducing their energy output.

Some of the more widespread advanced manufacturing trends include: powering factories and warehouses with solar energy, recycling or repurposing materials that would have previously been discarded, 3D-printing parts (also known as “additive manufacturing”) to reduce waste, and using sustainable fuel to power transportation at the shipping stage. 


Energy-efficient manufacturing in Washington state

3D-printed satellite from Planetary Resources. Image by S. Jurvetson via Flickr

Evidence of greener manufacturing methods can be found right here in Washington state. In April 2016, Senator Maria Cantwell, also a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, discussed the need to invest in advanced manufacturing that “can improve efficiency, reduce emissions and increase U.S. competitiveness.”

Cantwell listed Boeing’s new, state-of-the-art wing facility, Redmond-based 3D-printing company Planetary Resources and the Port of Port Angeles’ innovative recycling program as just some of the examples of the state’s advanced manufacturing growth. 

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