LED my fire

Find the green partner of your dreams at CLTC

Erik Page, director of engineering at CLTC: smart <i>and</i> handsome.

Erik Page, director of engineering at CLTC: smart and handsome.

SN&R Photo by Sena Christian

SN&R buys a building, wants to make it green and pays Sena: Eco-Warrior Princess to write a weekly column about it.

I’m determined to find the guys at the California Lighting Technology Center dates. It’s simple, really. I plan to hook them up, then they hook SN&R up with state-of-the-art lighting for our new building on Del Paso Boulevard. It shouldn’t be too difficult. Technically, the center’s young engineers are “nerds,” but really, they’re kind of cute. Here’s a personal ad I’ve written on their behalf:

Bright, young men seeking life partners. Likes: negawatts, photometry, long walks through LED-lit parking lots, daylight harvesting, reading the Title 24 Energy Code, being geniuses. Dislikes: jokes about mad scientists, stupidity. Energy-wasters need not apply.

I don’t usually throw my matchmaking services around so freely, but CLTC is truly something special. Established in 2004, the Davis-based outfit works with electric utilities, lighting manufacturers and government agencies to develop new lighting technology. Co-founded by UC Davis and the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research program, CLTC is also part of the university’s recently formed Energy Efficiency Center, an umbrella organization focused on the commercialization of emerging technology. And CLTC is one of its sparkling gems.

Why does lighting matter for SN&R’s building? Well, lighting accounts for 25 percent of a typical building’s energy use. Buildings consume 70 percent of the country’s electrical load, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. If half of all new commercial buildings were built to use 50 percent less energy, this would save 6 million tons of carbon-dioxide emissions annually, or the equivalent of removing roughly 1 million cars off the road every year.

“Energy efficiency is often overlooked when reducing one’s carbon footprint,” says Erik Page, director of engineering at CLTC. “Reducing power consumption lacks the sex appeal of solar power or hybrid cars, but it’s hard to find anything with a better CO2 reduction per dollar spent. At the end of the day, a watt not consumed is cleaner than the cleanest renewable watt that could be generated.”

The state mandates utilities to pour billions of dollars into energy efficiency before building new power plants. When seeking advanced lighting, they don’t ask manufacturers. They ask universities. In four years, CLTC has brought 10 products to market and has another 30 in the works.

The center uses realistic, Ikea-like settings to give visitors an accurate representation of lighting intensity, color spectrum and quality. In the office-cubicle simulation, inefficient overhead lighting is turned off and LED task lamps are turned on to show how ambient light can be significantly reduced when used in tandem with a personal-lighting system.

“LED is the best new technology coming,” explains CLTC director Michael Siminovitch, a Mick Jagger look-alike who likely doesn’t need help finding a date.

A LED, or light-emitting diode, uses far less electricity and emits way less heat than an incandescent bulb, or even a compact fluorescent light, for that matter. An incandescent bulb lives about 1,000 hours, while a LED lives more than 60 times longer, meaning it’ll work for about 14 years if burned 12 hours a day.

“There’s so much happening in LEDs right now. It’s evolved so quickly,” Page adds. “If you do things right, it’s a game-changing technology.”

Changing the game is what SN&R’s move to Del Paso Boulevard is all about. By using more efficient LED lighting in the new building, SN&R will cut energy costs, and those savings can then be reinvested in the newspaper by, say, giving a certain environmental columnist a raise.

So, what do you say? Who’s ready to take one for the team? That’s one way to see the light.