Are Your Lights on?
Green Grounds group wants to enlighten community on energy waste
By Matt Kelly
Photo by Dan Addison
|Two students study a box that represents 14.3 tons of coal, the amount wasted each week by lights left on in University buildings at night.
Hey, it’s just one light.
But when you add all the “just one lights,” one in Minor Hall, another in Gilmer, another in Halsey, they amount to something.
Seven-hundred-forty-eight tons of coal annually, according to student members of Green Grounds, who built an 8-foot by 8-foot by 8-foot wooden cube outside the chemistry building on April 17.
The box represented a coal bin large enough to hold the 14.3 tons of coal burned in one week because lights are left on at the University when they are not needed.
In the fall, Green Grounds volunteers, working with Paul Crumpler, Facilities Management’s energy conservation officer, conducted a survey of lights left on in buildings at night, finding about 26 percent of the lights on Grounds were left on after the buildings were emptied, and, in some cases, locked.
This is good news, according to Crumpler, who said a lighting survey performed several years ago showed about 40 percent of the lights had been left on. He credits motion-detector controls on the lights for the reduction.
Energy usage for the lights was calculated using a model of 26 percent of the lights on Grounds being left on over night and all the time on weekends. This burns about “three-million kilowatt hours per year, plus or minus,” Crumpler said. “This is an order of magnitude survey. We know it’s a big number but we can’t be exact.”
Using Crumpler’s estimates, Green Grounds activists calculated how much coal is used to generate that three-million kilowatts, broke it down per week and then determined the physical space that much coal would take up.
“We want to make staff, faculty and students aware of what’s going on,” said Green Grounds member Chris David. “Awareness is a big part of the battle.”
Cheryl Gomez, director of utilities for Facilities Management, said that Dominion Virginia Power, which provides electric service to the University, has several generating methods within the state, coal- and gas-fired, hydroelectric and nuclear generation. The University’s own heating plant operates on a combination of coal, oil and gas.
The University has made savings in other areas. The University used 3.5 percent less electricity to run its chiller plants in the first three quarters of the fiscal year, Gomez said. This represents a savings of about $110,000.
“We are getting better performance [from the chillers,]” Gomez said. “We have initiated an energy management program that makes them more efficient, maximizes use and helps performance.”
This year Crumpler also will begin replacing lights in the libraries with new fluorescents that will lower the wattage 10 percent to 12 percent.
The new lights will last longer, use less electricity and save money on maintenance, Crumpler said. He also is continuing to install motion detector light controls in many buildings, so lights go out if there is no movement in a room after a set period of time.
“We’re making good strides,” Crumpler said. “I do know it would be better if we turned off the lights.”