Governments already use tablet PCs to do everything from eliminating paper to making election ballots more accessible. Soon, tablets also will be helping cut energy costs at the California State University, Fullerton.

The university, located 30 miles from Los Angeles in the center of Orange County, completed a lighting retrofit project in the school’s gymnasium last year that included the installation of a wireless control system – a technology that has helped reduce the gym’s lighting energy consumption by 66 percent. Later this year, maintenance staff will be able to control systems on mobile devices, said Doug Kind, the university’s manager of engineering and sustainability.

“The tool belts of our maintenance people are going to be iPads,” Kind said.

To complete the retrofit, the university worked with Coopersburg, Pa.-based Lutron Electronics. Mark Terzano, an account manager at Lutron, said the university plans to have iPad controllability of the gym’s new lighting system by September. Lutron is creating an iPad app that will allow for password-protected access to control the system.

“You’d be able to adjust light levels, create new scenes,” Terzano said. “And that’s one of the beauties of this gymnasium, it’s used for many different functions and you can adjust the lights individually to suit the function going on in the space.”

Before the lighting retrofit, the gym used a single set of light switches to control 68 400-watt metal halide light fixtures in the facility. Small groups of students often use the gym late into the evening, Kind said. But before installation of the new system, all lights in the facility needed to be turned on, even if the entire gym wasn’t being used.

According to Lutron, lights in the facility were kept on at an average of 16 hours a day, seven days week throughout the academic year, leading to an annual electricity bill of $17,500. The new system already has reduced annual energy consumption from 141,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) to 47,800 kWh.

Now the gym lights are controlled with wireless occupancy sensors which automatically turn off or dim lighting in unused areas of the gym. The new iPad app will give select members of the university staff the ability to manually control the lighting, according to Lutron.

Besides the wireless control system, the retrofit included replacement of the gym’s existsing 400-watt metal halide lighting fixtures with Lutron 216-watt fixtures.

Funding from the California Energy Technology Assistance Program and the Southern California Edison’s UC/CSU-IOU Statewide Partnership Rebate Program covered more than half of the project’s $70,000 total cost.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.