Nov 04, 2008 - Claremont. Calif. -
The second-place prize of $300 went to the residents of North Dorm, where energy consumption dropped by 22 percent; third-place, which garnered $200, went to Case Dorm, where residents reduced power utilization by 20 percent.
All prize money—provided by the Educational Legacy Fund, along with funds to cover the cost of the awards ceremony—will go toward dorm activities chosen by the residents.
“What you’re doing is relevant to our long-term vision of marrying technology with information,” said Mark Wallenrod, manager of programs and operations at Southern California Edison (SCE), who attended the awards ceremony on campus Nov. 3. “We’d like to multiply this project by 11 million customers. Keep doing what you’re doing and keep up the good work.”
The contest challenged the residents of HMC’s eight dorms to conserve as much energy as possible through a variety of methods, including setting computers to sleep mode, turning off lights whenever possible, washing clothes in cold water, opening blinds during the day for natural lighting and unplugging cell phone and camera chargers from the wall when not in use, among others.
“I’ve been surprised in the last month to hear so many students talking about conservation,” said Rob Best ’10, co-president of HMC’s joint student service club Engineers for a Sustainable World and Mudders Organizing for Sustainability Solutions (ESW-MOSS), which helped organize the competition. “As a campus, the dorms conserved 16 percent of energy, compared to the month of September.”
The idea for the energy challenge grew out of efforts that began in the summer of 2007, when HMC students and faculty conducted a sustainability audit for The Claremont Colleges.
“Their findings were that real-time monitoring of energy consumption could save up to $250,000 per year,” explained Richard Haskell, the Burton Bettingen Professor of Physics and director of HMC’s physics Clinic Program. “It’s taken over a year for us to get such monitors in place.”
Working with the SCE-funded Campus Housing Energy Efficiency Retrofit Program—a partnership between environmental consulting firms Strategic Energy Innovations (SEI) and Quantum Energy Services and Technology—Mudd students embarked on their energy mission first by switching out hundreds of incandescent lightbulbs for florescent bulbs on the HMC campus and that of Scripps College, which saved both campuses thousands of kilowatt-hours in energy and thousands of dollars.
Next came the dorm contest.
Using real-time data from a new wireless technology developed by Rhizome Systems—a single-source supplier of low-cost utility monitoring devices and systems operated by HMC’s Joseph King, professor of engineering, and students Ben Margolis ’10, Matt Jeffryes ’08, Bart Oegma ’07, and Josiah Larsen '07—the power usage in the outer dorms (Sontag, Case, Linde and Atwood) was tracked and displayed on a television monitor located in HMC’s Hoch-Shanahan Dining Commons.
These monitors, which were recently installed at the Three Valleys Municipal Waters District in Claremont, Calif., fit in the palm of one’s hand and can be produced for $50, compared to current energy monitors, which cost approximately $3000.
“It’s about conservation through intelligent consumption,” said King. “We are currently developing a system that will plug directly into a home Wi-Fi/Ethernet hub and serve a webpage directly to a home computer.”
Sontag and Linde Dorms were duplicately monitored by the Richards Zeta Mediator Package, a commercially tested and available system, as a way to test the viability of the Rhizome system; the energy usage in the inner four dorms—North, South, East and West—was gauged using the totals from SCE’s analog meters.
“Without the strong collaboration and passion that we’ve seen among [HMC’s] students and professors … I don’t think this project would have been as successful as it was,” said SEI’s Morgan King.
“With Atwood reducing energy by 33 percent in just one month, we all know what to aspire to next time,” said Best, who hopes to see energy competitions become a yearly or semiyearly event at HMC.