The software that could help save the planet

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STAFF are flicking the switch to save cash and the planet.

New software is being used at the University of Sunderland and is being phased in across its campuses to automatically power down computers and monitors once they have been idle for a set amount of time.

The changes, being led by IT staff, will help the university to further cut its carbon output in line with Government targets.

It builds on The Big Turn Off Campaign, which aims to get staff and students to cut their energy usage through measures, ranging from switching off computers and phone chargers to sharing the cooking of meals to cut domestic fuel costs.

A traffic light sticker system is also being rolled out across all campus buildings, under which all switches and plugs are labelled with coloured stickers – green to be switched off when not in use, such as computer monitors; amber to be checked before being switched off, which covers equipment such as vending machines; red for never to be switched off, which includes freezers.

Jason Marshall, an infrastructure services manager at the university, said: “The university is committed to making savings in both money and carbon and making the IT network more efficient plays a big part in this.

“We introduced the power management programme at first in the Murray and St Peter’s libraries, and the savings were immediately evident.

“We are now looking to roll the programme out throughout the university this year and build on the successes achieved to date.”

Further savings in IT have been made thanks to the building of a new energy efficient data centre, which provides computing facilities to students and staff.

The new data centre is one of the first in the country to use a simple concept called evaporative cooling, an efficient way of providing the essential cool air required to run large IT systems without the need for expensive refrigeration. This, combined with a programme of running more systems on less equipment, such as the use of cloud technology, is reducing carbon emissions by hundreds of tonnes of CO2 and saving tens of thousands of pounds each year in power costs.

Across the board, the university has managed to slash its carbon emissions by almost a quarter in just six years.

This is thanks to a range of measures which include installing smart meters and efficient lighting in its buildings, as well as campaigns to promote cycling to work and a reduction in the number of fleet vehicles used by staff.

Head of infrastructure David Conway said: “Power management is an inherent part of the design of everything we do.

“From the initial procurement, ensuring a minimum number of deliveries, to our energy-efficient data centre from which we run the corporate IT down to how we manage our desktop machines, our data and the significant reduction in printing, everything is designed to be efficient, saving both money and carbon emissions.”