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Green Olympic Games track energy savings

February 26, 2010 | 12:01 pm

Richmond Olympic Oval

When Vancouver, Canada, made the decision to go for the greenest Olympic Games ever -- constructing low-energy venues and one of the greenest neighborhoods in the world at the Athletes Village -- nobody wanted to wait for a report card.

Throughout the events, managers and spectators could click into a Venue Energy Tracker for a real-time readout of how much energy was being consumed, compared to how much energy might have been used under typical construction methods.

A mobile phone application allowed spectators to peek at electricity consumption from the stands, should they find themselves suddenly fretting about how much it was costing to chill all that ice.

The report card: an estimated 15.4% reduction in electricity consumption during the second week of events -- 24,624 kilowatt-hours, for example, saved at Canada Hockey Place.

While the technology allows Olympics organizers to pat themselves on the back for innovations such as green roofs, waste-to-energy power generation, solar panels and reuse of waste heat, developers say the more important targets are older, drafty buildings that need to tighten up on their power consumption.

"Everyone has been talking about solar and wind and new technology, but there is this mass of existing buildings that will really be here forever," said David Helliwell, chief executive of Vancouver's Pulse Energy.

By detailed monitoring of a building's actual energy usage, Helliwell says, it's sometimes possible to cut consumption by 40% or more just by figuring out where power is being wasted -- too much outside air being drawn in, for example, or air being cooled on one floor, only to be heated up again on another.

--Kim Murphy

Chart tracking energy usage at Richmond skating oval; credit: Pulse Energy