Driving sustainability with data visualization


The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) tests cutting-edge research in energy efficiency, to find and apply best practices in sustainability.

As their technology partner, we are dedicated to developing creative solutions to energy problems through data, development, and systems integrations.

NREL data dashboard

Measuring campus energy consumption is critical

NREL’s 327-acre South Table Mountain campus in Golden, CO uses a considerable amount of energy to power heating, lighting, air conditioners, cars, and other technology.

Beyond merely collecting their energy usage data, NREL wants building occupants to have the data framework to make adjustments to energy consumption in real time.

This might be based on a variety of factors such as weather, staff presence, and peak energy usage, as well as the context and motivation, to nimbly react to aberrations in usage.

Having already worked together to great success, NREL contracted DEPT® to develop a visualization framework. Our strong delivery track record, focus on results, and experience with novel data visualization made for an ideal fit.

This allowed NREL to focus on its main objective – advancing energy science and research –  while trusting that the look and function of the Intelligent Campus Dashboard would meet its high standards.

Designing the interactive dashboards

We used an iterative, agile process, with regular check-in meetings with NREL’s stakeholders, exploring various design iterations, and making adjustments.

Using the latest VueJS frontend framework, with D3.js libraries, we created extensive and dynamic data models to handle all the current – and hopefully future – meter and building energy data that NREL generates. These data models can now be reused and built out for future work.

Dynamic dashboards, now feeding NREL’s live energy usage data are accessible both at employee workstations and on large touchscreen monitors displayed throughout the campus.

NREL dashboards

2,200 NREL campus building occupants

Previously, only a handful of NREL building operators and authorized research staff had access to the Intelligent Campus Dashboard. Now all 2,200 NREL campus building occupants have full transparency in accessing live data at their workstations or on the large campus monitors.

This encourages individual energy accountability and empowers users to make adjustments to their energy environment based on that information.

For instance, the transportation group researching demand management might check the electric vehicle charging station area and see that energy is approaching peak usage. This type of information could be useful in making an operational decision to turn off stations momentarily to avoid a billing spike.

Visitors to NREL, including high-level government officials, can view the Intelligent Campus Dashboard on prominent touchscreen monitors throughout the campus to gain an important window into the crucial and holistic work being done there. Researchers can use Intelligent Campus to display data to tell different stories to visitors and stakeholders about their work and secure funding for projects in the future.

NREL has always pushed the boundaries of what an energy-efficient building can be. The NREL Intelligent Campus Dashboard showcases and encourages more mainstream adoption of these innovations.

Ross Perry, Software Engineer


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