Building Bama: Crimson Energy Connection

  • November 8th, 2019

Have you ever wondered how much energy is being used in your building or residence hall on a regular basis?

Harris Hall residents hold a championship banner on the steps of the residence hall.
Harris Hall residents won the first “Battle of the Halls” Residence Hall Energy Conservation Competition.

If so, think no more. In August, UA’s department of energy management rolled out the Crimson Energy Connection to allow students, faculty and staff to monitor energy consumption in buildings and residence halls through smart meters that track electric, natural gas, chilled water and hot water data in real time.

“We began developing the concept in January 2018 and spent several months coordinating the integration of our smart meter reading system and our building automation system to be able to automate the energy data into the dashboard every 15 minutes,” said Donnie Grill, an engineer in UA’s department of energy management. “We gained project approval earlier this year and the Crimson Energy Connection went live at the start of the fall semester.

“By allowing the entire campus community to be aware of their energy consumption, it is our hope that they will change their habits in how they use energy on campus and at home.”

UA’s performance goal is to reduce normalized energy consumption per square foot of campus building space by 2% per year through 2025. To date, 90% of the main campus buildings have smart meters in place with efforts underway to upgrade the remaining meters in the near future.

The website allows all visitors to see an overview of UA’s electric, natural gas, chilled water and hot water data over the last three fiscal years. The campus community will need to use their myBama credentials to view live and historical data on the campus energy map, building details and energy conservation tips.

The UA community can also keep track of various energy conservation contests on campus, the first of which took place in October. Harris Hall won the first “Battle of the Halls” Residence Hall Energy Conservation Competition by reducing energy use by 16% during the two-week competition compared to the previous two weeks. Lakeside West finished second and Presidential Village I finished third. During the two weeks of energy competition (Sept. 30 to Oct. 14) residents saved $12,142 in energy consumption compared to the previous two weeks. If students were to take the same initiative for the total of the fall and spring semesters (36 weeks) they would save $218,000 in energy costs.

According to Grill, the next phase for the dashboard will include adding monthly electric, natural gas and water usage from local utilities by December to ensure all energy and water consumption is shown for each building on campus. The next phase also will add an internal dashboard for the facilities department.

“The internal dashboard will allow us to evaluate building energy consumption in greater depth and create reports for the facilities department,” said Grill. “Our facilities maintenance teams, engineers and management will be able to evaluate changes in operation of our buildings and renovations to buildings to see how they affect our energy consumption.”

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.