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Streetlight Upgrades to Slash Energy Use

Year-long project expected to save Duke  up to $188,000 a year

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Facilities' high voltage technician Steve Sanford works to remove old hardware and a lamp from one of Duke's outdoor light fixtures. Duke is upgrading almost 1,500 street lights across campus. Photo courtesy of Casey Collins.

Duke  has begun a year-long project to update and upgrade a major portion of its outdoor site lighting system with energy-efficient bulbs.

The effort, which began this month, will reduce replaced lights' energy use by about 75 percent, Duke officials said. That will remove 631 metric tons of carbon from the campus footprint, equivalent to the average electricity used by 94 American homes over the course of a year.

Most important, when the project is complete later this year, it will help Duke reduce carbon emissions. It's a key step outlined in the 2009 Climate Action Plan, which calls for the university to become climate neutral by 2024.

"Cutting down our energy use was the main driver for this project since our street lights are on quite a bit," said Steve Palumbo , energy manager for Duke's Facilities Management Department, which is leading the project. "We're also able to bring a uniform look and lighting scheme across campus."

Last summer, Facilities Management partnered with Duke students who tracked and surveyed every street light on Duke property. Out of the full population of street lights, Facilities identified 1,460 existing lamps to be fitted with new, energy-efficient bulbs. In addition to cutting carbon emissions through less energy use, the installation of LED light bulbs has the potential to save Duke as much as $188,000 in energy and operational costs.

Cost savings will partially come from less care for the light bulbs. The new LED pieces are warranted for five years and expected to last at least 40,000 hours, four times the amount of the old bulbs. Facilities' High Voltage Shop is handling the installation.

In addition to replacing bulbs across campus, some fixtures will receive aesthetic upgrades to bring a consistent look across campus. Facilities will be installing uniform brown caps to lamps and installing the same kind of glass prism cover.

Casey Collins, energy engineer with Facilities Management and project manager, said that a benefit of the project is it clearly shows - both literally and figuratively - a commitment to sustainability. Facilities' crews are out every week making positive changes to campus infrastructure, he said.

"It's all the best things about energy management," Collins said. "It will save maintenance time and dollars, save energy, improve appearances around campus, and it's a good representation of what the Facilities Management team can do for our part of the Climate Action Plan."