Central Utility Plants Improve Efficiency with New Lighting

The central utility plants on Centennial Biomedical Campus and Centennial Campus recently completed installation of new energy-efficient LED lights. Over the past two years, NC State Energy Management in partnership with Utilities and Engineering worked to replace about 400 lights in total. 

“The previous light fixtures were at their limit,” said Adolph Alvarado, a Facilities Division employee who worked on the project. “Not only does the upgrade improve the facilities but also illustrates the university’s commitment to energy conservation and efficiency.”

To provide heating and cooling for many campus buildings, NC State’s five utility plants produce steam and chilled water for the university’s three major campuses. The Cates and Centennial utility plants additionally utilize combined heat and power technology, producing electricity in a turbine and utilizing the waste heat to produce steam, which significantly improves energy efficiency. These systems improve the reliability of electrical services, reduce impacts to the environment and provide utility savings. 

The old light fixtures in these facilities were fluorescent and high-intensity discharge lights, which use two to three times more energy than LEDs. The replacements will offer brighter and more consistent light throughout each building, while also requiring less maintenance over time. 

“Fluorescent lighting is a thing of the past,” Alvarado said. 

The LED fixtures have integrated occupancy sensors that turn off much of the lighting when no one is around, further reducing the electrical load. The installation is a relatively low-cost but high-impact improvement with estimates predicting nearly $15,000 in combined annual electricity savings.

“Aside from the energy reduction and lighting improvements, there were other upgrades related to this project,” said Kerby Smithson, an energy project manager. “Some light fixtures in the large basement level of the Centennial plant were situated in hard-to-reach locations. We had the contractor move these to be more accessible for our staff for ease of ongoing maintenance. We also improved the emergency lighting systems, ensuring a safer building in the event of a power disruption.”

Energy Management performs efficiency upgrades like these throughout campus in order to decrease the university’s overall energy consumption. Since 2002, NC State has reduced its energy use per gross square foot by 37 percent.