‘A new light’s coming to town’: Physical Plant adds LED lights

Stephanie Sansoucy

The Physical Plant will replace all of the exterior lights on campus with more efficient Light Emitting Diodes.

The LED lights purchase was a part of a $16.5 million energy savings contract with Pepco Energy and will replace more than 1,100 lights on campus, including all pathway and parking lot lighting, said Mike O’Connor, director of the Physical Plant.

The 13-year energy savings contract with Pepco will examine all aspects of campus energy use. Its goal is to lower energy use on campus, according to a Pepco press release.

These changes will save the campus approximately $53,000 a year in electricity and approximately $30,000 in labor a year, since the current lights have to be replaced so often, O’Connor said.

The new lights will last approximately 100,000 hours, or 10 to 15 years, O’Connor said. The current orange-colored lights on campus only last between 10,000 and 12,000 hours.

The new lights will also improve visibility on campus, which increases safety, he said.

“Another cool thing is the lighting,” O’Connor said. “The lighting is so much better. Before you had the really orange lights, which is really hard on our eyes. Orange light really washes out the color. It makes everything look kind of orange and is prone to shadows.”

The new lighting will also be beneficial to students using the observatory on campus, O’Connor said. The current lights cause a lot of light pollution, meaning there is glare from the lights visible in the sky.

The new lights will reduce that glare, making it easier for classes to observe the sky at night, he said.

“It’s just a great project,” O’Connor said. “We’re doing all of this and we’re saving money in the process.”

The new lights will also decrease energy consumption on campus, said Jerry Marshall, the energy manager on campus.

“The new lights will provide the same amount of light as the old ones, but with 65 to 70 percent of the energy use,” he said.

Marshall said the university has an obligation to use funds from a source in an efficient way to save money, especially with the rising cost of energy.

The new lighting will also save energy, which will reduce carbon, he said.

The Physical Plant received the first shipment of lights this week and is waiting for New River Light and Power, the university’s power company, to install them.

The Physical Plant is waiting on another shipment of lights, which are being custom made in Hickory, O’Connor said.

The changes will completely alter the way the campus looks, O’Connor said.

“A new light’s coming to town,” he said. “So campus is going to be quite different.”

Story: CHELSEY FISHER, Senior News Reporter