PNNL

Obama chooses PNNL to lead Northwest manufacturing center

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy. Tri-City Herald

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will lead one of five centers nationwide to improve the efficiency of U.S. manufacturing.

The national lab will focus on some of the most energy intensive industries in the region — food processing, advanced materials and forest products.

Advances in smart sensors, digital process controls and information technology could radically reduce energy use in manufacturing and improve productivity.

The Northwest Regional Manufacturing Center will be a public/private partnership that is part of a national Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute. President Obama made the announcement this week.

“The idea is to fast track development and adoption of smart sensors and other technologies, providing manufacturers the information and tools that will allow better energy management,” said Mike Rinker, PNNL’s manager for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The center will partner with experts from Washington State University, University of Washington, Oregon State University, Oregon BEST, Montana educational institutions, Bonneville Power Administration and other organizations in the Pacific Northwest.

Nationally, the Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute, headquartered in Los Angeles, will assemble over $140 million in combined public/private investments to revolutionize smart manufacturing for energy intensive, clean energy and energy dependent industries.

The Northwest Regional Center will apply those advancements to advance and implement smart manufacturing technologies in the Northwest over the next five years and beyond.

“We will have the opportunity to use the software platform to reduce energy used in manufacturing and deliver more energy efficient technologies,“ said Rinker. “A large focus of the center will be to transfer the technology from those who have developed tools and technologies to those companies who can use them in the manufacturing process.”

The idea is to fast track development and adoption of smart sensors and other technologies, providing manufacturers the information and tools that will allow better energy management.

Mike Rinker, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Officials expect that industry participation in the regional center will grow as both small and large companies ramp up efforts in smart manufacturing.

It’s expected that activities of this regional center will also help the region meet energy efficiency goals and create new job opportunities and improve economic competitiveness.

Washington state Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, as well as the Pacific Northwest congressional delegation, advocated for the selection of the Pacific Northwest as a regional center.

“The Pacific Northwest has a decades-long history in energy efficiency investments designed to support a low-cost power system and competitive business environment,” Cantwell wrote. “Over the years, energy efficiency programs in the Pacific Northwest have created a rich ecosystem of companies, local governments, utilities, contractors and organizations oriented toward advanced technologies, new applications, market testing, acceleration and deployment.”

The other centers will be lead by the University of California Los Angeles, Texas A&M University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and North Carolina State University.

PNNL is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy and employs about 4,350 people, with 3,900 of those based in Richland. Its annual budget is close to $1 billion.

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