In an effort to monitor and control its energy costs, Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina is partnering with Duke Energy on a yearlong energy management pilot program that is made possible by digital, smart grid technology.
Through the energy management program, seven large buildings on the Catawba campus are equipped with digital smart meters that gather energy usage data for each building. The data is then transmitted back to Duke Energy through a wireless communications system and to members of the campus community and the public at large through a campus-metering page on the college website.
"We anticipate that the energy management program will enhance Catawba's sustainability efforts," says College President Craig Turner. "From an administrative point of view, it will allow us to be better stewards of our resources by tracking energy consumption in some key buildings on campus. It also affords our students an opportunity to learn about new technologies that can help reduce an institution's carbon footprint. The program is really a teaching opportunity for the entire campus community."
Turner notes that the ready availability of the data on the college website also lends itself to student competitions as different buildings vie to lessen consumption.
The Catawba College energy management program is the first of several university-based pilots Duke Energy has underway to assess the benefits of using digital metering and communications technology to give consumers more information, options and control.
"Digital, smart grid technology is changing how we do business and how we provide energy for our customers," explains Tom Fenimore, Duke Energy's product development manager who worked with Catawba on the pilot project. "By working with our customers to deliver more energy usage information more often, our customers can make more informed energy buying decisions which can help them save money while reducing their carbon footprint.
"Partnering allows us to deliver value beyond the meter. The opportunity to understand how to use this technology to better educate our customers made the Catawba partnership an appealing one."
Buildings that are now individually metered include the Robertson College-Community Center, the Cannon Student Center, the Hedrick Administration Building, Woodson Hall, Salisbury Rowan Hall, the Abernethy Physical Education Building and the Center for the Environment. These buildings represent approximately 50% of the electrical energy usage of the campus. Prior to the launch of the pilot program, Catawba administrators had no way to monitor energy consumption by building because all campus energy usage was routed through a single meter.
"That made it particularly difficult to turn Energy Hogs into Green Pigs," explains Catawba Facilities Director Eric Nianouris, alluding to the on-campus sustainability campaign launched during the 2009-2010 academic year.
Launching the pilot program involved installation of wireless meters on Catawba-owned transformers. There are multiple meters in two of the monitored buildings. In the Abernethy Physical Education Building, two meters measure different services to that building – one for all electrical usage and another for the recently installed air-conditioning units in the Goodman Gymnasium there. In the Center for the Environment, there are five meters; one measures the total building electrical usage, while others provide information on photovoltaic panels, overhead lighting, air-conditioning and plug outlet load.
College officials hope to use the data to identify energy efficiency incentive opportunities available to the campus through Duke Energy, and to better understand how costs are allocated to various buildings. The data tracked through the pilot program will also make its way into Catawba's classrooms as part of the content in sustainability courses offered in several academic majors, including the Sustainability and Community Development major recently added at the college.
Digital smart grid technologies are transforming today's analog power delivery system into a digital, interconnected network that delivers new ways for utilities and consumers to work together to manage energy usage, save money and help the environment. With technologies like smart meters, automated switching devices and wireless sensors, information will flow in two directions – enabling conversation and benefits never before possible with an analog grid system.
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