Dashboard tracks UI energy use


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The Energy Control Center keeps track of the energy use at the University of Iowa on a dashboard-like system, and officials encourage community members to check it out.

George Paterson, senior utilities system specialist for the UI Facilities Management, highlighted this system of energy tracking in a special tour of the Energy Control Center on Wednesday night.

Paterson spoke with the group Eco Iowa City, a grant-funded initiative that works to improve sustainability in the area. The tour was part of the members’ January to February focus area of energy.

“We’re hoping to get a feel for how the university uses its energy,” said Jennifer Jordan, recycling coordinator of the East Side Recycling Center and an organizer of Eco Iowa City projects. “We try to educate ourselves and the city.”

Paterson highlighted the Energy Control Center’s role of turning statistics it receives into useful information.

“We statistically baseline energy use,” Paterson said. “The Energy Center is just one cog in the wheel.”

The energy intensity dashboard helps to track the energy use in each building on campus, tracking chilled water, steam, and electricity in real time.

“This is their dashboard, if you will, for energy use and reduction,” Jordan said.

The dashboard also checks how much energy a building uses per area and whether the energy level is usual for that building. This helps staff to see where a system in a building needs to be fixed or when a building begins using more energy than it usually does.

“Knowing what’s normal and abnormal for each building is very important,” Paterson said.

Not only are the staff members of the Energy Control Center privy to this information, but any student, staff, or faculty member on campus can access the information as well. Paterson said people can log on to the Facilities Management website and check the energy intake of any building on campus, seeing how much chilled water, steam and electricity energy that building is currently using and whether or not that is typical for the building.

Paterson used laboratory buildings as an example, stating that they are “typically the most expensive” because of the constant monitoring of air quality, and they are therefore the focus of many energy-saving projects. He said that labs can cost between $200 and $300 an hour in the summer.

Martha Norbeck, owner and president of C-Wise Design and Consulting LLC, said that she had wanted to see how this system was used at the meeting.

“To be able to have that kind of accurate data automatically available to anyone on campus is very powerful,” she said. “I think that everyone should know that this dashboard is available.”

Jordan said there will be another tour of the Energy Control Center before the end of the month.

“It’s clear that people are very interested in efforts to reduce energy use around the community,” Jordan said.

Paterson said the university has “put strict goals in place” for monitoring and controlling their energy usage on campus.

“[Seeing the numbers] helps people remember ‘Maybe I should turn off the light,’ ” he said. “I think awareness is one piece of the puzzle.”

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