Ole Miss Energy Grids Get Smart
SmartSynch SmartMeters wireless monitor energy usage data, allowing Ole Miss to track its energy usage in real-time and form strategies to reduce consumption.
Ole Miss is taking procedures to promote energy management.
In August 2009, Ole Miss partnered with SmartSynch, Inc. to install 16 SmartMeters in buildings around campus, including the Lyceum, and the J.D. Williams Library. SmartSynch SmartMeters are designed to gather a building’s energy consumption data wirelessly using cellular technology.
Jim Morrison, director of campus sustainability and strategic planning at Ole Miss, said the pilot program was begun as a part of the Red, Blue and Green initiative to promote and support sustainability on campus.
The idea behind SmartMeters is that by informing students and faculty about how much energy they use they will be able to better maximize energy while lowering expenses.
“The pilot program yielded such remarkable results that we’ve been able to install more meters around campus,” Morrison said. “We are using the data to make informed decisions on how to manage energy consumption in the future.”
Morrison said SmartMeters reveal the issue of high energy consumption at night when buildings are unoccupied.
“There is a tremendous opportunity to change energy usage in the evening,” Morrison said. “Some buildings still run at 50 kilowatts at night, so we must ask ourselves how much of that is just from leaving computers on, not setting temperature right, forgetting to turn off lights in bathrooms, and so on.”
Morrison said energy usage on campus was 10 percent lower in 2010 than in 2009 due to people changing their social behavior. He said Ole Miss spends $10 million dollars on the utility bill annually, so the 10 percent reduction translates to $1 million dollars in savings.
Even if people did not change their behavior, SmartMeters save Ole Miss money through their design. SmartMeters, which look like ordinary meters on the side of a house or commercial building, sends energy usage data to the electric company wirelessly. This eliminates paper work as well as the need to send service people around campus to physically read the meters.
“We are setting up incentive programs to get students to use less energy,” Morrison said. “The incentives will be scholarship opportunities, like money to buy books, not just a pizza party.”
Jonathan Jones, a senior chemical engineering major, was an intern for the Office of Sustainability in Spring 2010. He worked directly with the University Physical Plant and SmartSynch to help create energy management tactics.
“I found that the electricity bill is directly proportional to CO2 emissions,” Jones said. “I think shifting times of energy usage and lowering number of classes at peak times is the most effective method to lower the electricity bill.”
Darren Raybourn, Vice President of Business Development for SmartSynch, said there are two ways to save energy; operational and behavioral, and that SmartMeters help both.
Raybourn said before SmartMeters were installed, Ole Miss buildings were connected to one of eight primary meters.
“Ole Miss would receive one big bill would at the end of the month,” Raybourn said. “The lack of a detailed energy usage bill limits their (Ole Miss) ability to know which buildings need upgrades, like new cooling systems.”
Raybourn said having a meter on individual buildings allows Ole Miss to better maintain the buildings and prioritize upgrade projects.
SmartMeters bring up the issue of the university’s centralized budget. Individual buildings are not given an energy budget, it is one flat rate.
“Every month in the Fall, the peak energy usage happens at the football stadium on gamedays,” Raybourn said. “This calls attention to the controversial topic of making people pay to enter The Grove.”
Raybourn said favorable reception of SmartMeters at Ole Miss has encouraged other schools and business to install SmartMeters. Some new clients include the City of Oxford, Memphis Light Gas and Water, and Mississippi State University.
“In the future, we’re looking to improve the dashboard so all energy data can be more readily available to the public,” Raybourn said.