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ECS monitors as we switch off for Earth Hour

The live meter in Building 32
The live meter in Building 32

As the University joins institutions and individuals worldwide to switch off lights and appliances during Earth Hour, researchers in the School of Electronics and Computer Science will be using their new GridCarbon iPhone app to see just how much carbon has been saved.

Earth Hour, organized by the WWF, takes place this year on Saturday 27 March at 8.30 pm GMT. WWF are aiming for one billion people worldwide to switch off their lights for an hour in support of people, wildlife, and habitats threatened by climate change. The University of Southampton is encouraging staff and students to switch off all unnecessary electrical appliances at both the machine’s switch and, if safe and accessible, at the mains socket before leaving work on Friday 26 March 2010. The University's web site explains: 'This will make a difference for the whole of the Earth Hour weekend.'

Electricity is produced from different raw materials which each create various levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions; with coal creating the most CO2 emissions and renewable energies creating the least. Gas is predominantly used to produce electricity in the UK but when demand exceeds the supply capabilities of the gas fired power stations, coal powered stations are employed to maintain the electricity supply. This means that the carbon intensity of the grid - the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere when one unit (1 kWh) of electricity is used by a consumer - varies continuously over each day and throughout the year.

Earlier this year researchers in ECS launched a new iPhone application which monitors the UK electricity grid. Dr Alex Rogers, Dr Perukrishnen Vytelingum and Professor Nick Jennings developed 'GridCarbon', which enables users to monitor the carbon intensity of the grid – the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere when one unit (1 kWh) of electricity is used by a consumer.

“The GridCarbon app (download from iTunes) shows people how using appliances and machinery at different times of the day can reduce their carbon footprint; for example, at some times of the year, running washing machines and dishwashers overnight rather than at peak times in the evening, can reduce carbon emissions by as much as 40 per cent,” said Dr Rogers. “While developing this app, we were surprised at how much the carbon intensity of the grid varies at different times of the day, and between different days in the week.”

Dr Rogers has developed live meters that are currently running in three buildings in the School of Electronics and Computer Science: Zepler Building; Mountbatten Building; and Building 32.

GridCarbon is just one initiative being developed by ECS researchers as they develop a vision of the Smart Grid. They are currently researching the use of computerised agents to operate smart electricity meters in support of the Government’s initiative to have smart meters in all homes by 2020, and are using a new building on the Southampton campus as a test bed. The Ideas Project web site has more information.

DON'T FORGET - switch off for Earth Hour!!! 8.30 pm Saturday 27 March ...

Posted by Joyce Lewis on 25 Mar 2010.