By Teri Boggess
N.C. Energy Office Communications Staff
A project that reduces workload, improves quality and slashes costs 93 percent would be worthy of a standing ovation on any stage. In this case, the project really is on stage, and a hearty Broadway-style “Bravo!” can be directed toward the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
The university’s 1,015-seat Sarah Graham Kenan Auditorium achieved a 93 percent reduction in the annual energy consumption required for its stage lights by switching 33 of its inefficient incandescent fixtures to light emitting diodes, or LEDs.
The $56,216 lighting project was part of a $1.8 million campus energy upgrade that included an apartment heating-and-cooling system replacement project and chiller improvement for the dining hall HVAC system. The energy upgrade was partially funded with a $533,166 U.S. Department of Energy State Energy Program Grant for Government, Universities and State Agencies from federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money administered by the N.C. Energy Office for the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Remarkable energy savings for a small project
In the auditorium, a stage lighting cost savings of about $2,500 per year will come from reducing the wattage from 29.83 kilowatts to 2.13 kW. The annual energy use will be reduced from 35,798 kilowatt hours to 2,559 kWh. This change also reduces greenhouse gas emissions about 37,727 pounds per year.
“Although this was a relatively small project, it demonstrates the savings that can be realized through the intelligent application of energy-efficient principles,” said Dr. Herbert Eckerlin of the Center for Energy Solutions’ Energy Management Program in N.C. State University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “A 93 percent reduction in energy has been realized. The energy now required is only 7 percent of its former usage.”
New lights provide new quality for performances
Besides slashing energy costs, the new ETC Selador® Desire™ D40 LED lighting fixtures – manufactured in Middleton, Wis., and installed by Barbizon Charlotte Inc. – give Kenan Auditorium crew and performers lighting quality and options they haven’t had for shows that visit Wilmington and New Hanover County.
“The best example is the enhanced availability of color options and rapid implementation,” said Norman Bemelmans, who is UNCW’s director of cultural arts and an acclaimed pianist who performs under the new lights. “Not only do the new lights offer a full color spectrum, but colors can be changed or added at the push of a few buttons from our lighting console.”
That quick change will eliminate a difficult task for the stagehands. “Changing color on our old incandescent lighting instruments required flying in (lowering) those instruments to working height, switching out one or more color gel frames, which had to be prepared previously, and then flying the lights back out to appropriate production height,” Bemelmans said. “That process took at least two stage technicians and a fair amount of time, so it was impossible to create varied color effects in mid-production, except during an intermission break. Thus the new lights make a huge difference in our ability to provide the rapid-change creative staging required by complex productions from major production companies.”
Maintenance time and cooling costs also are reduced
Replacing the individual stage lights with long-lived LEDs also reduces maintenance costs, reduces the load on the air conditioning system and makes the conditions more comfortable for performers in about 180 events at the facility each year.
“The comfort level for the performers onstage has dramatically increased. The incandescent lights would cook the people on stage,” said Steve Sharpe, an engineer and project manager in UNCW’s Office of Facilities. “Now, there is no appreciable heat gain when performing under the new LED lights. This will help to ensure that premium performers have the best experience possible and return because it’s a comfortable and enjoyable place to work.”
University is committed to energy conservation
Reducing energy use and costs is a commitment at the university. Efforts include construction of energy-efficient buildings, improved heating-and-cooling system controls, replacement of aging mechanical systems with more efficient equipment, completion of a Performance Contract project, temperature setbacks and universitywide conservation efforts.
“UNCW has made energy conservation a top priority for many years,” said Tom Freshwater, the physical plant director. “As an active participant in the Utility Savings Initiative established by legislative action, UNCW has reduced its energy consumption (Btu per square foot) by 36 percent compared to year 2002-03 baseline data. This outstanding reduction in energy consumption has exceeded targets established by Senate Bill 668 and has made UNCW a recognized leader in the area of energy conservation.” Senate Bill 668, signed into law in August 2008, mandates energy conservation in state buildings.
Lighting project sets example for other auditoriums
UNCW’s recognition includes the attention of other universities interested in energy savings. The successful switch to LEDs at the auditorium interested Appalachian State University staff, who recently made inquiries to Kenan Auditorium staff about using LEDs, Sharpe said.
Bemelmans is only too happy to write a glowing review for the new lighting.
“What was earlier a cumbersome and often near impossible task,” he said, “now simply takes a few strokes on our lighting console, and we are able to share with our campus and community critically acclaimed productions of the highest professional caliber – and to do so successfully and cost effectively.”