Green Trends | News

UC San Diego Energy Dashboard Broadcasts Energy Usage

The University of California, San Diego is enjoying dramatic payoffs from energy saving improvements completed on campus about five years ago, and one way it's doing that is by making facility energy usage data available online. Earlier this year the university deployed an energy dashboard that provides real-time measurements of power consumption for dozens of buildings on campus.

For example, the main meter for the San Diego Supercomputer Center reported that at 4:15 p.m. Pacific time Aug. 3, the center was consuming about 130 kilowatts. Viewers can track a specific building's usage by clicking on the building in a Google Map and drilling down multiple levels through the data displayed.

The dashboard project grew out of the common premise, "You can't manage what you don't measure." Yuvraj Agarwal, a research scientist in the Jacobs School of Engineering, proposed that if UC San Diego could measure its energy use, it could do a better job of reducing that usage.

The dashboard provides campus people and in some cases the public with data on energy use by buildings, floors within buildings and in some cases rooms on a floor. The data is fed from 200 energy meters providing energy usage at the building level. The dashboard portal also features information coming from about 40 individual power meters that measure energy consumption in offices, such as a computer and monitor drawing power from a single socket.

In one project that grew out of dashboard usage, the university has used data to identify inefficiencies in its computer servers. As a result of this finding, UC San Diego replaced 514 older computer servers with 270 energy-efficient models. This particular initiative, according to the university, reduced energy consumption by 7.9 million kilowatt-hours and saved $680,000 annually.

"The Energy Dashboard is a useful tool for tracking and comparing energy use, to help modify behaviors that can lead to meaningful changes at the personal as well as campus levels," said Gary Matthews, vice chancellor of resource management and planning.

UC San Diego participates in numerous programs sponsored by San Diego Gas & Electric, a public utility in Southern California. One of the programs, called The Cool Planet Project, rewards business customers--such as the university--that install significant energy efficiency projects by providing assistance in measuring, monitoring, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2005, UC San Diego completed $60 million in energy-saving improvements that cut electricity consumption by 20 percent, saving the university $12 million annually. This year, the campus is using $73 million in utility incentives and low-interest bonds as part of a multi-year program to reduce energy consumption in 25 of its older buildings by a combined $6 million a year.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

comments powered by Disqus