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WNC Air Quality News

Million Monitor Drive

Thousands of computer monitors in our region will automatically go to "sleep" when they aren't in use - a move spearheaded by the Western North Carolina Regional Air Quality Agency that will significantly reduce energy consumption and the corresponding emissions from coal-fired power plants, a major source of air pollution in western North Carolina.

The governments of Buncombe County, the City of Asheville, and Madison County, as well as Warren Wilson College, the Land-of-Sky Regional Council, Alcan Packaging, Basofil Fibers, BorgWarner Turbo Systems, B.V. Hedrick Gravel and Sand Company, Ohio Electric Motors, Rockwell Automation, Shorewood Packaging Corporation, Volvo Construction Equipment North America, Charles D. Owen Manufacturing Company, and Tyco Valves and Controls have each committed to enable Monitor Power Management on their organization's computers.

The program, part of the ENERGYSTAR® "Sleep Is Good" Million Monitor Drive campaign, uses free software jointly developed by the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to automatically go into a low-power or "sleep" mode after a certain amount of time with no computer activity. A simple touch of the mouse or keyboard "wakes" the monitor in seconds. Power Management features are standard in Windows and MacIntosh operating systems. The free software is available to enable these settings on whole networks of computer monitors. Small groups and individuals can enable power management features manually on individual computer monitors without utilizing the software. Sleeping monitors can save up to 380,000 kilowatt hours and nearly $30,000 annually per 1,000 computers, according to the Western North Carolina Regional Air Quality Agency, which introduced the program locally.

With 3,296 local computer monitors scheduled to be automatically powered down when not in use, that's enough of an energy savings to light 1,005 homes for a year. Not only will each organization save money (up to $48,000 for Buncombe County and City of Asheville Governments alone), but each will also be helping to improve air quality. Emissions of smog-causing pollution from coal-fired power plants will be reduced by over 9 tons, and a whopping one thousand tons of greenhouse gas emissions from these plants will also be eliminated.

Close to half of the energy used by computers is wasted, given that over 60% of computers are left on all night and nearly half of all monitors are not enabled for power management. On average, computers are used only four hours per day, but continue to consume electricity even when idle. This waste costs U.S. businesses and organizations about $900 million annually, and results in tens of thousands of tons of additional air pollution from electric generating utilities.

Other local organizations who are interested in this program and free software can contact the Western North Carolina Regional Air Quality Agency at 250-6777. If your organization would like to join the local Million Monitor Drive, please contact the Agency and submit a pledge form. Since most home computers have a power management feature, local residents who want to save electricity with their home computers should ensure that this feature is activated. Instructions on how to enable monitor power management manually on individual computers are available at:

For General information about Monitor Power Management, including links for the free software:

Learn more about the national Million Monitor Drive:

Calculate cost savings and pollution reductions for enabling power management features on multiple computer monitors and hard drives:

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Another Energy Star program that organizations can use to save energy, money, and reduce pollution is energy benchmarking.

Portfolio Manager is an energy performance-rating tool for buildings. This tool is software accessed via the Internet, which allows an organization to rate ("benchmark") the performance of its building(s) using different factors that affect energy usage. The software is available for many building types: offices, schools, hospitals, hotels, supermarkets, residence halls, and warehouses. The software is designed to be used as a tool to assess building performance and assist in planning for energy efficiency upgrades.

For more information, see the website: