I’m encouraged and energized by: Obama's proposed Clean Power Plan, which is aimed at reducing CO2 emissions at power plants by 32% by 2030 and New York's Community Shared Renewable Program, providing greater access to solar and wind energy. These are big goals, backed by real plans, to fight climate change and bring more renewable energy online in America.

But how can we, the general public, participate in these plans? 

Simple. Change our behavior of how we consume energy. We have the power, today, to reduce our energy use and become more energy efficient, which in turn maximizes the output and impact of renewables. Energy efficiency is the cheapest form of energy

Light up a Path towards Energy Efficiency

On my solar bike adventure, I’ve been able to witness the impact of energy efficiency. Roanoke’s Civic Center and the Knoxville Zoo have realized major savings by simply upgrading to Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). It is something we all have the power to do.

LEDs are the most efficient form of lighting. How do they work? Quite similar to solar cells actually. LEDs absorb energy from electricity, which excites electrons and emits light, in the form of photons. Solar cells work in the opposite direction. They take the suns rays, photons, which excites electrons and creates an electrical current.

The benefit of LEDs is that they have an energy efficiency of 80%-90% compared to conventional light bulbs. This means about 80% of the LED energy is converted to light. In contrast, a traditional incandescent light bulb operates at 20% energy efficiency losing 80% of the electricity as heat. With commercial building in the U.S. using 35% of their electricity on lighting, LEDs become a low hanging fruit for energy savings.

Let’s put some numbers behind LED potential and how a simple upgrade can add value to the clean power plans proposed by President Obama and Governor Cuomo.

Energy Upgrades to Roanoke’s Civic Center, the Berglund Center

I spoke to Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill who said they were able to slash electricity costs by $400,000 at the Berglund Center. My blood started bumping with excitement and I couldn’t ask fast enough, “How?”

One answer – Upgrading to LEDs

Here are the fast facts on the LED upgrade at the Berglund Center:

  • The city spent between $600,000 and $700,000 a year on electricity at the civic center. LEDs are cutting the cost by 65%.
  • They replaced 180 1,500-watt quartz lights in the coliseum with 61 LED lights, which drastically reduced the $400 per day electric bill to $120 per day.
  • They updated the two outside signs from 10,000 incandescent bulbs to LEDs resulting in an 83% and 74% energy reduction for each sign respectively. The electrical cost from those signs dropped from $901 per month to $327.
  • Also add in that LEDs produce 60% to 70% less heat than a traditional blub, which allows for less electricity used on air conditioning.

LEDs not only drive down cost but they provide greater illumination. The lights are so bright, said Berglund Center General Manager Robyn Schon, “we thought the building was on fire.”

Knoxville Zoo Reduces its Energy Use Footprint

I was able to meet Harvey Abouelata, President of Aries Energy in Knoxville, TN. He shared the story of how his company helped save the Knoxville Zoo $55,000 annually by replacing 3,100 bulbs with LEDs. 

Harvey Abouelata , President of  Aries Energy  and Mary Shaffer Gill

Harvey Abouelata, President of Aries Energy and Mary Shaffer Gill

Lisa New, executive director of the Knoxville Zoo, said, “Now with the majority of the lighting upgraded, we are already seeing the cost savings on our utilities. Equally importantly, we are able to reduce our use of natural resources to become a leaner, greener Knoxville Zoo and stay true to our mission of saving wild animals and wild places.”

Takeway | LEDs Deliver Immediate & Long Term Savings, Financially & Environmentally

As if the immediate savings of $455,000 between both of these examples wasn’t sweet enough, LEDs have a lifetime that is, on average, 40 times longer than most incandescent lamps and 7 times longer than most compact fluorescent lamps.

This longer bulb lifetime means that the Berglund Center and Nashville Zoo will save even more money down the road in the decreased number of replacement bulbs required, as well as the lower labor costs associated with replacing bulbs more frequently.

Retrofit your home or business

You too can participate in our national quest to change our energy mix. Let’s stop wasting energy and become more efficient. Upgrading to LEDs is a quick and effective way to participate.

One of my partners, Thinklux Lighting, offers a top quality, reasonably priced LED.

Let’s all get active, reduce our energy consumption and participate in our nations quest towards a clean energy future.