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Playing Around with Lighting Efficiency

June 28, 2010 - 6:03pm


The city of Brea, California, had a problem: The lighting in its Brea Junior High Park was becoming obsolete. The park, one of the busiest maintained by this northern Orange County city, needed the lighting for nighttime use of its sports fields and courts. The existing system was not only extremely inefficient, but scheduled to be phased out of production. That meant the city would soon be unable to buy replacement bulbs.

But due to the budget problems plaguing municipalities across California and the country, Brea had trouble finding the money to pay for a complete retrofit -- especially because the savings to the city from more efficient lights would not be large enough to repay the investment quickly.

An Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped move the project forward.

"Replacing that sports lighting system was an expense that the city would have had to incur, and our general fund budgets have really been challenged," says Warren Coleman, Senior Management Analyst for the city. "So the grant was extremely timely and helpful."

Coleman says the city actually had a number of projects on its wish list, but selected this one because it would benefit the largest part of the community.

"Unlike facilities used primarily for soccer or baseball, this facility is used for multiple organized sports activities. This allows this facility to serve a larger number of community members" he says. "The light levels will be improved out there and the performance of the new lighting system is guaranteed. The new controls system has energy efficiency features that don’t exist now, so it’s really a win-win situation."

The city’s grant totals $191,000. Some of this will fund the labor for installation, but most will go toward purchasing metal halide lights to install on the park’s existing light poles. These are replacing lights that are also metal halide, but are older and suffer from inefficient housing. The housing in the new lights allows them to illuminate a greater portion of the fields per bulb, which increases the efficiency. In addition, more efficiency comes from the system’s advanced controls, which include an online component that allows city employees to turn off the lights remotely and stop wasteful mistakes.

That greater efficiency allowed Brea to substantially reduce the number of lights it’s using, from 110 1,000-watt lights to 64 1,500-watt lights. This eliminates 14,000 watts, reducing the amount of energy the city needs to power the lights and saving about $2,300 a year. The city will also receive a full set of replacements after 5,000 hours - the typical life of a metal halide bulb - for further savings.

"We struggled a little bit with the savings number because it didn’t seem very significant," Coleman says. "However, if you figure in the fact that we didn’t have to spend this - almost $200,000 - of the city’s general fund money to get this necessary and useful project accomplished, that really helps you see how much of a benefit the grant funds were."