Colorado School Of Mines Includes Students In The Energy Efficiency Equation

Aug 31, 2018

The Colorado School of Mines has launched a new energy awareness and savings program. PowerED will retrofit facilities to be more efficient and teach students and staff how to conserve through online community engagement.

"We're training the next generation of scientists and engineers, and so we want them to go out into the world and understand energy and how people affect the energy use of buildings," said Lauren Poole, the sustainability coordinator for Mines.

Mines has partnered with McKinstry, a firm that specializes in consulting, construction and running energy and facility services, on the three-year program. PowerED is expected to save the school nearly $451,500 annually dollars through reduced utility and operating costs.

PowerED is more than replacing windows and lightbulbs. It educates students and staff about the importance of energy efficiency and resource conservation at the same time retrofits are done.

The energy savings are then tracked, measured, analyzed and quantified.

"If they're (students) all changing their behavior it can have a significant impact on the water conservation and energy conservation of the campus," said Poole.

Colorado School of Mines students check out powerED online resources to save energy and increase environmental sustainability on campus.
Credit McKinstry

An important component of the program is People.Power.Planet, a website that allows students and staff to track their efforts and get rewarded for things like turning off lights or unplugging appliances.

Alison Schwabe, a powerED manager with McKinstry, said the online component helps the program track the conservation efforts of the school community. There are also offline activities like behind-the-scenes energy use tours.

"It's been great to see them (students) have some real-world experience on the ground at their campus to increase energy efficiency and sustainability," she said.

While powerED is new to Mines, the program is entering its third year at the University of Northern Colorado.

Schwabe said the UNC project cost about $9 million and the school has recouped more than $500,000 in energy saving per year and seen close to a 20 percent reduction in energy use.

"We've also engaged close to 700 students online," said Schwabe. "They've checked off over 2,000 routine actions that they're doing to increase energy efficiency and over 200 key actions -- and these are actions that we have energy savings associated with."

UNC senior Marie Lee belongs to Student LEAF, a sustainable group on campus. Through LEAF she is a member of the school's powerED steering committee which includes students, McKinstry representatives, faculty, members of the facilities and the environmental studies departments.

Lee said the People.Power.Planet website includes challenges which give the campus a friendly way for people and resident halls to compete to see who can conserve the most energy.

"I think it's really important to get involved and actually take the challenges and see how that works in your life and see how you can pass it along to others as well," she said.

Through the efforts of the powerED steering committee, the university received a $500,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to purchase and install solar arrays on the roof of a campus building. The renewable energy project will cut electricity costs and carbon emissions with an estimated savings of $176,500 of the expected 20-year life of the system.

"Basically, it's not only good for the environment, but it's also good for the health of the students that are attending as well," said Lee.