University of Calgary

Campus computer ‘power down’ will halt energy drain at night

UToday HomeMarch 21, 2013

By Jennifer Allford

IT power down team members, back row: Garfield Quan and David Buhler. Front row, Geoff Crowe. Photo by Derrick WooIT power down team members, back row: Garfield Quan and David Buhler. Front row, Geoff Crowe. Photo by Derrick WooBy installing software that automatically shuts down most of its computers at night, the university could save enough energy to power 265 average houses in Calgary for an entire year.

That was one of the findings of a pilot project in the summer of 2012 when the university’s IT department tested a “power down” tool in different computing labs. IT implemented a small module called System Centre which allowed them to monitor and report on 116 computers, some with and some without the power down strategy turned on.

The software automatically shuts down computers at a specified time at night, not only saving power but also ensuring that important updates are installed. The software will be rolled out across campus this coming summer and will not be applied to machines that have to run overnight. It can be customized to specific needs — such as turning off the monitor if idle for a given amount of time — and it doesn’t kick in if a computer is being used.

"We found that in the past, to properly manage our computer labs we needed the computers to be on all the time. With this new management tool, it's easy to manage the computers and save power at the same time," says Geoff Crowe, the team lead for IT’s Educational Technology Solutions.

“The goal was to know how much power desktop computing is consuming across campus and then apply appropriate power strategies to reduce that consumption while maintaining productivity.”

Crowe says applying power strategies to the computer labs reduced power use by 37 MWh per year. That means when the same strategies are applied to another 6,000 computers across campus, power reductions could reach 1.60 GWh — enough to keep a couple of city blocks humming for a year.

The power down computing pilot was one of the projects funded with money made available from the Energy Performance Initiative’s Energy Efficiency Project — a program that reinvests the savings from previous energy efficiency projects into new projects to reduce energy consumption and utility costs.

The Office of Sustainability spearheaded the Energy Efficiency Project program in support of the university’s goal of reducing GHG emissions by 45 per cent by 2015.

For more stories on how students, faculty and staff are stepping up together to turn SustainabilityON at the University of Calgary or to learn how you can become involved, visit:


Follow UToday on Twitter.
Check the UToday website for news about events, people and trends at University of Calgary.
Follow what’s happening on campus using our interactive calendar.