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EPA P3 Awards
Alex Steffen, 18 May 05

I find the student winners of the E.P.A.'s P3 Awards downright inspirational. The awards are given for sustainable designs that will help people, prosperity and the planet. The winners include a program to help reduce the use of toxic chemical in lab research, a green energy system for an Indian village and this very cool proposal for making visible the invisible on college campuses:

The built environment is responsible for two-thirds of U.S. electricity consumption and over 15 trillion gallons of water used annually. On college campuses, a significant percentage of total energy and water consumption takes place within dormitories. Personal choices can substantially reduce energy and water use in dorms and other institutional buildings. However, it is difficult to motivate building occupants to make decisions that conserve resources for future generations if they cannot easily sense and react to the implications of their decisions. ... The premise of our research is that easily accessible feedback on resource use in buildings increases both awareness and motivation to act in ways that change attitudes, minimize resource use and save money.

Specifically [we propose] a prototype system that will combine:

* off-the-shelf water and energy flow sensors;
* newly available and relatively inexpensive wireless datalogging and networking hardware;
* and networking, database management and display software that our project team will custom develop for this project.

Surmounting the massive challenges we face is going to take ingenuity -- big, huge, ambitious doses of sheer innovation and inventiveness. What's more, it's going to take ingenuity undertaken with a sense of perspective: more design, more technology and more innovation aren't so much what we need as more of the right kind of design, technology and innovation. This kind of competition seems a step in the right direction.

(Thanks, Christol!)

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Charging people for what they use will be a far better signal than a graph.

Nice find, Alex.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 18 May 05

I love the monitoring idea too. I've thought about the difference in usage it would make if people could monitor their home gas/electric/water consumption. Right now, all the info you get on it is 'after the fact', when you get the bill. I wonder what the 'readily available' devices are that they mention. Wouldn't anything that monitors the same thing that the utility monitors would have to be connected to the utility meter and therefore approved by the utility?

Posted by: Erik Ehlert on 18 May 05


Posted by: Tawn Kennedy on 18 May 05

Thank you all for your enthusiasm about this project! I am one of people that were heavily involved with the design and implementation of the project and would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

The way we monitored energy use was to put current transducers (CTs) around the cables supplying power for each floor of each dorms that were monitored. The flow of electricity through the cable generates a small voltage in the CT and this voltage can be measured and used to determine the amount of energy flowing through the cable. So with this technology no modifications of the utility meter are necessary, since as Tawn pointed out, they are property of the utility.

Posted by: Vladi Shunturov on 19 May 05



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