Forbes College Wins First Campus Energy Contest

do it in the dark logo
Posted on May 13, 2014

Students United for a Responsible Global Environment (SURGE), recently spearheaded the University's first college-wide energy-saving competition, which ran from April 1 through April 26. First place went to Forbes College, which saved nearly 7,000 kWh and $1,617. 

During the competition, dubbed "Do it in the Dark," each residential college competed to determine which one could reduce its daily electricity consumption the most against its own baseline average, which was sampled between March 23 and March 30. This type of assessment prevented colleges with fewer students from having an unfair advantage.

Tracking the results was Wattvision, a local start-up owned by Savraj Singh ‘03, whose company designed the competition in collaboration with the University and published the live data in visual form on a user-friendly website.

While Forbes' savings alone are notable, the collective impact is of course even greater: The top three colleges together saved 11,876 kWh, equivalent to $2,755.34 based on the average price per kwh in the area. We could fully charge 312,538 laptops from the total energy saved by all six residential colleges. After Forbes, in order of savings, the colleges ranked the following: Rocky, Butler, Whitman, Wilson and Mathey.

The idea for the contest, which was first proposed by Lindy Li '12, was developed into a full-blown competition under the leadership of SURGE. Co-President Isaac Lederman '15 was enthusiastic about the results.

"The Do It in the Dark competition showed the enormous benefits of saving energy,” said Lederman. “Not only we did save enough energy to power 312,538 laptops but the University also saved close to $3,000 in energy costs in April. None of this would have been possible without the work of Wattvision, the Office of Sustainability and Greening Princeton. Wattvision designed a fantastic website for the competition.”

Being the first competition of its kind at Princeton, there were also a few lessons learned along the way, particularly related to unexpected data stream interruptions. Singh has already begun planning improvements for next year.

“We need to sample a broader baseline period and have a better understanding of dorm-level energy usage before next year's competition, so we can better quantify improvements,” he said. “As we work with Facilities to get better data streams, we should be able to, next year, do our own version of 'earth hour' where we can see the energy drop at the same time, live, in the app.”

Thanks to everyone who participated in the first-ever college energy competition at Princeton, and to SURGEWattvision and Facilities for their hard work behind the scenes. And congratulations to Forbes and the other residential colleges for saving energy!