College basketball shines in March. The Lasell College men just lost a heartbreaker in the GNAC Tournament. My alma mater, Siena College, has had an amazing year and just won the MAAC Tournament to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Basketball brings excitement and energy to college campuses at a time of year when students in the northeast are ready to be done with winter.
While the players are shining on the court, so are the lights overhead. The energy consumption by a college gymnasium is extremely high. I now know that our Athletic Center is lit by HID fixtures that use 1000 watts each. There are 16 of these lamps so they use about 16,000 watts. Athletes are in the gym by 7 AM and the facility is in use late, say 10 PM. The lighting is slow to turn on so it most typically is left on everyday for over 13 hours. We can estimate the gym lights are on for about 3,000 hours during the academic year. This costs the College about $6000 for the electricity and requires the emission of about 55 tons of carbon dioxide to generate.
What options are there to reduce electricity consumption in gymnasiums? Other Colleges have been exploring new lighting technology in their gymnasiums that reduce energy use while enhancing the lighting quality. Smith College in Massachusetts has taken the initiative to retrofit most of their gym spaces.
There are two main options that would work for Lasell. First, we could simply replace the 1000 watt lamps with 750 watt lamps. This would be an easy means to quickly achieve a 25% reduction in electricity usage. This change would save the College about $1500 a year, reduce our carbon footprint by 13 tons, and only cost about $3,000.
Second, we could do a retrofit to T5HO lighting as done in the basketball gymnasium at Smith. This project would cost a bit more, Smith spent $20,000 but the energy savings would be drastic. This retrofit would reduce wattage by 67% and occupancy sensors limit power when the space is not in use. Based on my assumptions, this retrofit would save the College $4,000 in electricity each year and reduce our carbon footprint by 36 tons. This one project would reduce electricity use by Lasell College by about 1%- a big step towards our 80% CO2 reduction by 2050 goal. The athletes will appreciate the enhanced lighting and cooler temperatures, those 1000 watt fixtures are also generating heat!
As colleges market their programs during the NCAA Basketball Tournament this year, you will see an increase in the mention of sustainability and green initiatives. Pay attention to the images colleges show while they mention these initiatives. Lighting will be a recurring theme, including in gymnasiums. Lighting is the low hanging fruit for energy conservation. Retrofitting lighting has high rate of return over the life of the project. These projects save colleges money and reduce carbon footprints and are very easy to justify.