Energy dashboards to save SRU millions

Published by adviser, Author: Erica Kurvach - Staff Reporter, Date: April 11, 2013

New software will be installed into a prototype energy dashboard that will be placed into Watson Hall by the end of this month to monitor total energy usage in the building, teaching students how to conserve energy.

Eventually, Residence Halls A through F will display these monitors which show the total amount of water, electric and gas energy used every 15 to 30 minutes, on their wall in the lobby area.

The University could save about $1.5 million over 10 years if it decreases its energy usage to three percent.

West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund granted $15,000 to SRU to purchase “six energy dashboard touch-screens that track energy consumption and provide the energy conservation education,” according to Rockpride Online.

“We hope to have the prototype installed into Watson Hall by the end of the month so that we can get feedback on the students as to how to modify the prototype so that it is more effective,” Scott Albert, Director of Facilities, said.

An energy dashboard is a flat screen monitor that will display graphs of the energy usage information of each individual building.

“The reason why we are installing these is as we continue with our conservation energy efforts here on campus, we are getting the point where there are not as much changes that we can make with physical equipment,” Albert said. “Most of our lighting has been changed to as energy efficient as you can get. At this point and time, where we are going to continue to save energy is through educating people and getting them to change their behaviors.”

Students will not be penalized for not conserving energy, because the University can only monitor how much a building is using and not an individual student.

“Obviously, we can estimate the total number on the bill and divide it with the number of students or calculate how much is used per square footage, but it’s not going to be accurate if one student has a 60-inch flat screen TV and a gaming system in their room verses the student next door who just has a laptop,” Albert said.

The dashboards were expected to be installed by the end of Winter Break, but the software developer is behind schedule.

“Holistically, if each student does one thing different, taking a shorter shower or turning off their devices when they are not using them, they will see their impact on utility usage on an individual building through the auto displays,” Albert said.

Dr. Julie Snow, geology associate professor and member of the Sustainability Committee, says that one of the areas that SRU is seeing a lot of useless energy consumption is the Residence Halls.

“Student are leaving lights on and are not really aware of their energy consumption because they are not paying for it,” Snow said. “It’s not an additional bill.”

These bills are included in the cost of living in the Residence Halls.

“We have decided to use these energy dashboards to communicate to the residents to those buildings,” Snow said.

Student will be able to read graphs on the energy usage in their hall and the other Residence Halls through an interactive touch-screen. Residence Halls will hold competitions for the residents to keep their energy usage down.

Snow and the committee members looked at other companies and their software.

“There was one that we looked at that just had polar bears, and when the polar bears were swimming in the water looking like they were drowning, the students knew that they had to go around and shut lights off,” Snow said. “When the polar bear was happy and sitting on the iceberg, then they knew their energy consumption was down at a reasonable level.”

The committee looked at other software since there were different types.

“There was another one at Oberlin College that was just an orb—a light that was in the center hallway when you walked into the building,” Snow said. “It would change colors. When the orb was green, the energy consumption was reasonably low, and as the orb changed to orange, yellow or red, you knew that energy consumption was too high.”

SRU’s goal is to become carbon neutral by 2037.


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