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Santee School District Monitors Energy Usage in Real Time

Two energy technology companies are teaming up to sell an integrated set of products for monitoring and communicating real-time electricity usage. Santee School District in Southern California has tested out the components of the system and become "overwhelmed" at the impact the monitoring process can have on people's energy-related behaviors.

Lucid, which develops BuildingOS, an "operating system" for equipment in a building, is working with Rainforest Automation, which produces EAGLE Energy Access Gateway, a device that can communicate with smart meters that operate with ZigBee. ZigBee Smart Energy is a standard created and implemented by a group of companies that enables their products to monitor, control, report on and automate the delivery and use of energy and water.

BuildingOS aggregates energy data from multiple vendors' metering and building systems into one monitoring screen to give facilities people access to energy information and analytics. The addition of EAGLE provides a mechanism for streaming real-time data over the Internet to BuildingOS. Because it's built on the ZigBee standard, EAGLE doesn't have to be attached to a breaker panel by an electrician; it works wirelessly.

The Santee district became familiar with Lucid's energy monitoring system when it took first place in an electricity reduction competition that was put on for schools by Lucid last year. The prize was a Lucid Building Dashboard, which delivers energy usage reporting to multiple users through a browser.

From Sept. 29 to Oct. 19, 2013, students, faculty and staff competed to achieve the greatest percentage reduction in their school's electricity use by turning off lights when not needed, unplugging electronics after the school day finished and engaging in other energy conservation actions. The district saved a total of 35,203 kilowatt-hours, resulting in about $7,500 in savings. That was a reduction of about 15 percent on its electrical bills. The district's facilities manager used a tool made available by the local utility company to download electrical readings and upload those readings into Lucid's software, which kept track of savings in the dashboard for students and teachers to check.

"Parents, teachers and students were overwhelmed with how they could make a difference in saving classroom energy dollars," said Christina Becker, director of maintenance, operations and facilities at Santee. "But in order to sustain these energy savings and do more to empower our facilities staff, we needed real-time information without the burden of uploading meter data manually."

Lucid upgraded the school with the most dramatic savings — 19.3 percent — in the district, Pepper Drive School, with the Rainforest EAGLE product. That was placed near the electrical meter to transmit electrical readings wirelessly every few seconds to a Web site. Then students and teachers could turn off lights, computers and other kinds of equipment and watch the almost immediate effects on total energy usage through the dashboard.

"In addition to posting these impressive savings," the district's site announced, "the competition provided valuable educational opportunities, such as enabling teachers and students to both understand how their actions impact their school's electricity consumption and discover how conservation acts can reduce that impact."

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .