Intelligent Campus by NREL

Data Visualization Dashboard for Energy Science

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Energy Accountability Meets Connected Data Visualization To Drive Sustainability

327

acre area campus

2,200

building occupants

3,245

Whole building kilowatts

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more energy-aware workplace than the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a federal organization dedicated to developing creative solutions to energy problems through research, publications, partnerships, and technology. At their 327-acre South Table Mountain campus in Golden, CO, NREL tests cutting-edge research in energy efficiency and energy systems integration, all to find and apply best practices in sustainability.

Measuring the campus’ energy consumption and generation is critical to their mission.

Beyond merely collecting their energy usage data, NREL wanted building occupants to have the data framework to make adjustments to energy consumption in real-time based on a variety of factors such as weather, staff presence, and peak energy usage, as well as the context and motivation to nimbly react to aberrations in usage.

Designing the Interactive Dashboard

To begin, NREL and Devetry stakeholders met to define the goals of the project, allowing the Devetry team to clarify NREL’s priorities and ideal vision for Intelligent Campus Dashboard from the jump.

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Dashboard Features

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Dashboard Features

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Dashboard Features

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NREL had already internally developed a few older dashboards, and handed them over to Devetry with the goal of blending them into a cohesive experience, knowing they would require modernization, design optimizations, and branding. The Devetry team used an iterative, agile process, with regular check-in meetings with NREL’s stakeholders, exploring various design iterations and making adjustments.

#1

NREL had already internally developed a few older dashboards, and handed them over to Devetry with the goal of blending them into a cohesive experience, knowing they would require modernization, design optimizations, and branding. The Devetry team used an iterative, agile process, with regular check-in meetings with NREL’s stakeholders, exploring various design iterations and making adjustments.

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The final product? Dynamic dashboards, now feeding NREL’s live energy usage data, will be made accessible both at employee workstations and on large touchscreen monitors displayed throughout the campus. Using the latest VueJS frontend framework, with D3.js libraries, Devetry created extensive and dynamic data models to handle all the current – and hopefully future – meter and building energy data that NREL generates. These data models can now be reused and built out for future work.

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The dashboards provide viewers multiple options to interpret and understand the live data, while drawing attention to trends, outliers, and patterns in energy usage. The next step will be to establish ideal ranges for each energy metric, and ultimately to set triggers if usage is outside an acceptable range.

Working with Us

Having already worked together to great success, NREL contracted Devetry to develop a visualization framework. Devetry’s strong delivery track record, focus on results, and experience with novel data visualization made for an ideal fit.



This allowed NREL to focus on their main objective – advancing energy science and research –  while trusting that the look and function of the Intelligent Campus Dashboard would meet their high standards.



One of the most unique and exciting aspects of the Intelligent Campus Dashboard project was the challenge of its multiple intended audiences.



Intelligent Campus isn’t a consumer product, and yet neither is it exclusively an internal tool for staff at NREL. NREL building users would need the dashboards to be accurate to be useful, while at the same time, visitors to the campus, who may not be experts in this area, would ideally find these dashboards easily decipherable, eye-catching, and intriguing.

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Results

Previously, only a handful of NREL building operators and authorized research staff had access to the Intelligent Campus Dashboard. Now all 2,200 NREL campus building occupants have full transparency in accessing live data at their workstations or on the large campus monitors. This encourages individual energy accountability and empowers users to make adjustments to their energy environment based on that information.



For instance, the transportation group researching demand management might check the electric vehicle charging station area and see that energy is approaching peak usage. This type of information could be useful in making an operational decision to turn off stations momentarily to avoid a billing spike.

Or the dashboard system could catch an aberration in usage – say the lights automatically powering up on the Monday of a long weekend when the lab is closed – and a  change to correct it could be made, saving energy and money.

Visitors to NREL, including high level government officials, can view the Intelligent Campus Dashboard on prominent touchscreen monitors throughout the campus to gain an important window into the crucial and holistic work being done there. Researchers can use Intelligent Campus to display data to tell different stories to visitors and stakeholders about their work and secure funding for projects in the future.

These novel visualizations allow experts and non-experts alike to understand, appreciate, and ideally emulate the exciting work taking place at NREL. That’s energy accountability for the win.

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