When you plug in an appliance, chances are you don’t think of the plug as being particularly intelligent.
But WattTime, a startup nonprofit developed through the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) Foundry at UC Berkeley, has developed one that is, and is testing it on electric carts at UC Merced during the spring semester.
UC Merced’s facilities department has 10 electric carts used to run errands around campus, and Anna Schneider, co-founder of WattTime, believes her technology can save the campus money and reduce its carbon footprint – one of UC Merced’s major sustainability goals.
“We can learn from each other,” Schneider said. “We’ll help you use less carbon without you even knowing anything has changed.”
The smart plugs installed at the facilities building near the back of campus gather data about what kind of energy is being used to charge the carts and determine the cheapest and least environmentally impactful time to charge. Every minute of the day, WattTime software follows what kind of energy is being used – solar, natural gas, coal, geothermal or hydroelectric.
“Different power sources are available on the power grid at different times of the day and night,” Schneider said. “Once you have that data, you can figure out when to use the cleanest energy possible.”
Campus Energy Manager Varick Erickson said that while UC Merced has ambitious sustainability goals, the campus did not have the baseline electricity usage of the carts until now.
“Most people don’t really have a handle on their carbon footprint,” he said. “For example, electric cars can occasionally be worse for the environment than gas-powered cars, depending on the source of the electricity used to charge the cars.”
WattTime plugs will gather data for a couple of months in this pilot program and develop a charging strategy for facilities to most efficiently charge its carts.
“I expect it will save us some money, and it’s a good start,” Erickson said. “We’re open to all kinds of applications for it across campus.”
Campus talent brings ‘Winter’s Tale’ to life
Tragedy and comedy come to life this month in “The Winter’s Tale,” directed by UC Merced literature professor Katherine Brokaw. Presented by Merced ShakespeareFest, the four-act play is among the last written by William Shakespeare and is Brokaw’s favorite.
“The first three acts are tragic, and then you finish off with comedy and love, and reach this point of tenuous harmony,” Brokaw said. “The audience gets to see the effects of the main character’s bad decisions, but then there is the fulfillment from seeing him redeemed.”
Setting the play in the mid-1950s to late 1960s has allowed Brokaw to have fun with the score, replacing the traditional music with pop songs like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.”
It’s also given Brokaw the opportunity for diverse collaborations. The 35-member cast is studded with UC Merced connections, including students, faculty, and children of faculty and staff.
Applied mathematics major Aaron Bremner plays the part of Autolycus, a wandering thief and ballad salesman. Other UC Merced cast members are: Jayson Beaster-Jones, music professor; Soheil Fatehi, student; Taryn Hakala, lecturer; Amber Kirby, alumna; Jenni Samuelson, lecturer; and Dawn Trook, lecturer.
Performances are Feb. 20-22 and Feb. 27-March 1 at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center, 645 W. Main St. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets, which are $12 for the general public and $8 for students, are available at the arts center during business hours or from the Playhouse Merced Box Office, at (209) 725-8587.
UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the University Communications staff. To contact them, email firstname.lastname@example.org.