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A Dashboard for Driving Down Energy Use
CHESTERTOWN MD—Washington College’s energy dashboard is now up and running, offering real-time data on electricity use on campus. Designed to increase awareness and motivate members of the Washington College community to reduce energy use, the online dashboard receives its information from meters installed in 16 buildings, including residence halls, and administration and academic buildings.
The online interface for the Energy Dashboard is reachable from the homepage under “About Us” and the “Sustainability” link. Once there, users can choose to view energy usage for each of the 16 buildings. There are options to view energy usage in kilowatts, pounds of carbon dioxide, or even dollars spent to power the building. In addition, users can view graphs that show energy use over the day, week, month, and eventually year, which will allow the College to identify patterns in energy consumption and plan for greater efficiency. More broadly, the comparison tab on the interface shows a breakdown of which buildings on campus use the most energy as well as how much total electricity those 16 facilities use over a period of time.
As well as monitoring consumption, the dashboard offers suggestions on ways to conserve energy and the opportunity for users to commit to them online, through Facebook, to show support for greener living.
The dashboard technology was produced by Lucid Design Group, a California-based company that specializes in computer-based systems for measuring consumption of energy and water. The company’s products are used by schools across the nation, though Washington College is the first to implement it in Maryland, says Briggs Cunningham, Energy Programs Manager at the Center for Environment & Society.
Cunningham worked with Lucid on the installation and manages the system. He says people are usually surprised to see the real-time data on a building, especially older ones without any “green” technologies. He hopes students, faculty and staff will bookmark the Dashboard page on their computers, check it regularly, and make use of the conservation tips on the site. “That mindfulness can go a long way to helping us cut energy consumption and reduce our carbon footprint,” he says.
He is especially encouraged by how the Student Environmental Alliance is embracing the Dashboard as a tool to educate the campus community about conservation. The group has produced videos celebrating conservation and offering tips for saving energy (available on the Dashboard site), and is planning a winter “Drive it Down” campaign to boost awareness and keep students engaged. Over time, as the data collected from the dashboard becomes more comprehensive, the College can track progress and identify problem areas in energy consumption. By providing a visual record for accountability it will help the College implement real policies to reduce its energy use.
Funding for the Dashboard came from the Small College Energy Conservation Initiative, a program of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. It was launched in 2009 to help private liberal arts colleges reduce energy consumption, cut costs and reduce carbon footprints.
– Catalina Righter ’17