Increasing numbers of colleges and universities are making a commitment to foster sustainability on campus. This strategy aligns well with university missions that include public service, thought leadership and pioneering new technologies. But at the end of the day, the most compelling reason is financial. Energy makes up only a small percentage of a university’s operating budget (about 3.5 percent on average), but in terms of raw dollars, America’s colleges and universities spend almost $7 billion in energy and utilities.
In higher ed we often find that the pace of decision making can be snail-like. While not always a bad thing, it is symptomatic of what the Higher Education culture embraces—making sure all the right data is in place before making the final decision. Thus, efficiency in decision making can become challenging because the institutional environment requires collaboration and every mind requires a different level of data satisfaction, due in large part to individual perspective.
Although taking steps to protect the environment is “the right thing to do,” it doesn’t stop people from wanting to know their efforts are making a difference. An energy dashboard can be the answer to communicating the results of campus initiatives.
“Real-time, web-based dashboards really take what’s happening in the boiler room to the dorm room,” says Mike Kempa, senior marketing manager for the Energy and Environmental Solutions Group at Honeywell.
With dropping solar prices, state and federal incentives, and innovative financing models, the crop of campus solar installations has become a healthy one. In fact, installed solar capacity grew 450 percent from 2008 to 2011, when the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) launched its Campus Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Installations Database.
Electricity. It turns on the lights, powers the smart boards, and runs the computers that are all vital to a modern campus. Acquiring that electricity can be both an expensive proposition and a key part of an environmental action plan. With the size and variety of buildings on campus, some colleges and universities have their own power stations on campus to ease their dependence on public utility companies. Most have their own microgrids to distribute power generated from any source. Now campus leaders are looking into giving those microgrids an education.