June 21, 2011
WOOSTER, Ohio — The proverbial saying, “with knowledge comes power,” has taken on added significance this summer at The College of Wooster, where a group of environmentally conscious individuals have joined forces to develop a way to measure energy consumption across campus in an effort to enhance sustainability.
“It’s been brewing for awhile,” said Matt Mariola, visiting assistant professor of environmental studies. “Wooster is a very inefficient campus energy-wise, so we need to be able to better monitor our usage.”
The problem in the past has been funding, but an arrangement with Wooster’s Applied Mathematical Research Experience (AMRE) program, which gives mathematics and computer science students a chance to gain practical experience in their field by working with a client on a specific project, will allow The College of Wooster Energy Usage Tracking project to move forward.
The goal of the project is to measure four areas of energy usage — electricity, water, natural gas, and steam — for every building on campus. “It all has to do with meters,” said Mariola about the energy-measuring process.
Although every building already has its own meter for water and natural gas, they are not equipped to measure electricity, which comes to the College from the City and goes through the campus power plant where calculation takes place on one central meter. Mariola calls the entire set-up “a very complex map.” The new Performance Contract, a commitment signed by Wooster President Grant Cornwell to improve the energy efficiency of 34 campus buildings in an effort to reduce the College’s carbon footprint by 36 percent, will also allow for individual electricity meters to be placed at 12 buildings, making the measurement much easier.
The next step will be to develop an online database of energy usage for every building, and that’s where the students come in. With measurements as far back as 2008 and moving forward on a monthly basis, the data will be accessible through an interactive system created from Google Maps, through which the user can click on any building on the map to find out its energy data. Eventually the program will automatically update each month, without having to be manually updated. The future may even provide a real-time data system that tracks energy usage as it occurs.
“It’s definitely a challenge to be given a list of things to implement and (a deadline) to accomplish as much as possible,” said Michael Janning, a junior computer science major, who is working on the project with senior computer science major, Micah Caunter.
As he waits for the project’s completion, Mariola is already thinking about how he can integrate the results into his classroom. His hopes are for the development of an “information portal” that can be used “a conversation starter in the classroom” (and elsewhere) about energy usage. He also hopes the results will encourage students to engage in “energy-saver competitions” in residence halls and houses across campus.
- Story by Libby Fackler '13
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