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Bright I.D.E.A.S. shine on U.S. Dept of Energy home page

Published: Sunday, April 25, 2010

Updated: Sunday, April 25, 2010 18:04

Central Florida Future

George Oehl

UCF's green initiatives have received national spotlight this month in a video that highlights campus energy saving efforts and appears on the U.S. Department of Energy's website.

President Hitt and staff from UCF's Department of Energy & Sustainability Management appeared in the video, but its real star is Chris Castro, president and co-founder of I.D.E.A.S.

"I don't think we could get any bigger than being on the home page of the DOE like we are," Castro said. "That was our max goal and we somehow reached it."

"But it's not stopping here," he said.

Castro was a driving force behind the university's national attention. He interned at the DOE's division of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in D.C. last summer, where he helped write proposals and support the clean energy revolution.

"When I was up there I was kind of plugging I.D.E.A.S. and UCF wherever I could," he said.

Upon returning to the university, Castro continued his work at the Department of Energy & Sustainability Management.

Part of his job duties include being involved with UCF's annual Kill-A-Watt contest, an energy efficiency challenge for students living in campus dorms. The fourth annual contest underwent a face-lift this year, being extended from one month to two and a half months and offering educational seminars to make students more aware of how much power they use.

Castro shared the news of the improved contest with the DOE.

According to Castro, the DOE was excited to see an intern go above and beyond what his internship required of him, and decided to make a video highlighting Kill-A-Watt and UCF's other sustainable initiatives, including the green roof on top of the Student Union and the Florida Solar Energy Center.

"It's pretty awesome to see UCF highlighted like that," said Alexandra Kennedy, co-project manager of Kill-A-Watt. "It has helped to inform students, but it's also something that has formally established the campaign."

The video, which has been viewed nearly 4,000 times on YouTube, features some of the events held in conjunction with Kill-A-Watt, including an energy saving informational seminar and Dine in the Dark, a light-free dinner at Knightro's.

Castro and Kennedy also offer viewers some simple steps for energy efficiency in the video, like raising the temperature of the air conditioning before leaving the house, unplugging unused appliances and taking the stairs instead of an elevator.

Kennedy hopes that the behaviors demonstrated in the video and practiced by studentsparticipating in Kill-A-Watt will help instill long-term energy saving behaviors.

"When people work at something for a longer amount of time, we hope it becomes a habit," she said.

According to Castro, students have already jumped on to the energy saving wave thanks to Kill-A-Watt. Last year, he said, most dorms averaged a 15 percent increase in energy efficiency and the university cut energy costs by $27,000.

This year, some dorms have reached more than 30 percent of energy savings and the contest has saved UCF more than $32,000, Castro said.

Despite reaching one of his goals, Castro's work with I.D.E.A.S., UCF's sustainability efforts and the DOE is far from done. He will be returning to D.C. this summer with two other members of I.D.E.A.S. to intern at the DOE and create a platform for students throughout the country to begin green organizations at their universities.

"[The DOE] see how I.D.E.A.S. has grown and how we've been working together, and they want a team of students already working together to help write the platform for the new program," Castro said.

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