Playing with Energy

11.01.2012 | Research, Faculty, Engineering, Science
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A University of Dayton researcher is helping an Ohio community hit hard by the economic downturn play for some real green.

Kevin Hallinan, a mechanical and aerospace engineering professor, worked with Energize Clinton County to develop Dropoly, a free online energy reduction game that shows users where they can reduce energy costs.

The group rolled out an alpha version of the game to 300 users in the Wilmington, Ohio-area this fall and will expand to 5,000. Users enter monthly energy costs, the size of their house and "recreate" their house with their appliances, windows and other items such as lighting that affect energy consumption. Dropoly will give energy grades and show users what they are losing and what they could save. Future versions of the game may include ways for users to compete against their friends and win prizes.

"We know people enjoy saving money, but we also hope they find this game fun," Energize Clinton County co-founder Mark Rembert said. "Dropoly allows a household to measure, manage and reduce their energy consumption, earning them tangible reward in their wallets."

Hallinan and Rembert hope the savings will be poured back into the county's economy.

"The emphasis is about keeping jobs in the community," Hallinan said. "People save money and have income that may support local businesses. Businesses can use their savings to grow and employ more people."

According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a $1 million investment in a building-efficiency improvement will initially support approximately 20 jobs. The same $1 million investment in the economy as a whole supports 17 jobs. When a business or household lowers energy costs, the resulting shift in spending supports 17 jobs per $1 million compared to the 10 jobs per $1 million supported through energy generation and distribution.

The saying "it takes money to make money" doesn't apply to saving money on energy, according to Hallinan.

"People don't have to spend money to save money on energy. Behavior changes alone can typically save a third," Hallinan said. "Everyone who logs in will see what they're losing by not acting. It will show how much we think you can save simply with behavior changes. It's not about the appliances in your house. It's how they are used."

Hallinan, through the University of Dayton Fitz Center's Community Energy Reduction Group and the state-designated Strategic Center for Energy and Environmental Informatics, has been working with Energize Clinton County for two years. The Community Energy Reduction project strives to help communities achieve transformative energy reduction.

Clinton County was hit hard by shipping company DHL's decision to move to Kentucky in 2008, putting nearly 8,000 people out of work.

Before creating Dropoly, the center worked with Energize Clinton County to do energy assessments for building owners in Clinton County, providing prioritized specific actions for short- to medium-term energy reduction. For an investment of $150,000, two-thirds of which would go to local contractors capable of implementing the actions, the businesses could save a combined $50,000 annually. The investment would pay for itself in about three years.

Energize Clinton County's work is made possible by support from the Clinton County Regional Planning Commission and the 2012 Audubon/Toyota TogetherGreen Fellowship program.

For more information, contact Shawn Robinson, associate director of media relations, at 937-229-3391 or srobinson@udayton.edu.