Energy Efficiency

San Diego CC System Lowers Utility Bills with State-Funded Lighting Upgrade

When San Diego Community College District was honored earlier this month for its sustainability efforts by APPA, an organization of educational facilities leaders, lighting wasn't necessarily mentioned; but upgrading that is expected to become part of the institution's standard operating procedure. The 10-site district with 130,000 students recently took advantage of a state-wide program to modernize its lighting technology to reduce energy consumption and generate rebate savings.

The facilities organization upgraded the college's administrative offices with "intelligent" LED lighting from Cree that uses up to three-quarters less energy than traditional lighting and has generated $80,000 in rebates from its utility provider.

As part of the upgrade the district installed Cree CR Series lighting fixtures that use the company's SmartCast technology. SmartCast is a self-programming wireless lighting-control system. A one-button set-up allows Cree luminaires to form automatically into networks incorporating integrated ambient and occupancy sensing to achieve energy savings.

The college liked the idea that variations in lighting could exist across the office, depending on employee preferences. "In large offices, we've grouped the fixtures and occupancy sensors to accommodate people that work after hours. If they're working late in a remote corner, I grouped that office with the main office so those main office lights stay on." said Christopher Manis, vice chancellor of facilities management, in a case study about the project. "One of the qualities we like is the ability to make adjustments. I like my lights on full blast. Next door, they want 80 percent. I'm still saving 20 percent on my energy use while the person next door is saving even more and they're happy with their amount of light. The ability to have a hand-held programmer controller allowed us to make adjustments quickly and easily."

The district also deployed Cree Edge LED flood lights in exterior locations.

Previously, the community college district financed such retrofits by working with its utility, SDG&E, to pay for the work through energy savings. This time the project was financed using Proposition 39 funding. This California "Clean Energy Jobs Act" includes a budget to pay for energy projects in public K-12 and higher education facilities. Under the initiative the state makes about $550 million available annually for eligible projects that improve energy efficiency and expand clean energy generation in schools. The college system was also eligible for rebates from SDG&E as a result of the upgrade.

"If I save 20 percent on my electric bill, then those dollars became available for other projects," said Manis. "We call lighting the low hanging fruit because it has one of the largest savings potentials, especially when upgrading older facilities that still have incandescent or older fluorescent fixtures."

With the extended life of LED fixtures, the institution also expects to save on staff time. As Manis noted, "One of our main weighted categories was life of product. Now I don't have to send an electrician out but once every 10 years," allowing the facilities staff to divert the resources to other areas.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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