CapU looks to lighten its electrical load

LED overhaul cuts campus bill by thousands

CAPILANO University hopes to slash its electrical bill by switching to LED streetlights.

The school announced recently it had replaced all the streetlights and parking lot lights at its North Vancouver campus with the low-energy devices, making it the first large organization in B.C. to change over completely, according to Laura Williams, Capilano's energy manager. The university is planning to do the same at its Sunshine Coast and Squamish campuses as well, she added.

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While the new lights cost three to four times more than traditional bulbs, they will pay off in the long term, said Williams. The LEDs will not need to be replaced for the next 15 to 20 years, and will save the university about $15,000 annually in electricity costs. Capilano will receive $38,000 through BC Hydro's PowerSmart program to offset the cost of the new lights.

It took about a year to research the new technology, persuade facilities staff and decision makers at the school to agree to the huge change, and finally to install the lights.

"I'm a bit of a lighting freak, and I wasn't going to give up," said Williams, who has devoted the past four years to helping the university become more energy efficient.

The new lights have also improved visibility, she said.

Instead of the yellowish tint of traditional streetlights, LEDs shine whiter and distribute light more evenly. It's all about how our eyes see light at night, said Tony Fiorvento, the North Vancouver representative for Capilano's LED supplier, Hubbell Canada.

"A whiter light is going to give you more facial recognition, more recognition of objects compared to a yellow light," said Fiorvento. "Your eyes can actually see that better."

As the days have shortened, Williams said the LEDs have made parking lots and roadways noticeably brighter.

"People, especially women, were not feeling very safe, especially in some of the remoter parking lots," said Williams.

Despite the energy and cost savings, it's still an uphill battle to convince organizations to adopt LEDs, said Fiorvento.

"Many institutions, like municipalities, fear the technology shift, fearing that tomorrow's LED will be better than today's," said Fiorvento. "They will hold back based on proven technology."

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