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University of Wisconsin campus debuts environmentally friendly LED lights

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire recently debuted a series of energy-efficient LED lights around campus, according to the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. The new LED lighting replaced the high-pressure sodium bulb types that had previously illuminated the campus.

"It is seriously so much brighter," UW-Eau Claire associate director for facilities Mike Traynor told the news source. "We're removing a lot of the rooftop floodlights and putting the light where we want it. You can see more stars. I think the neighbors appreciate that."

The project, prompted by the UW-Eau Claire Student Office of Sustainability, included a substantial retrofitting of numerous light sources around the university's campus. According to the news source, 84 parking lot lights and 17 overhead walkway lights throughout the campus grounds were replaced with LED lights. The LED streetlights and LED garage lights are expected to reduce energy usage by an estimated 246,425 kilowatt hours in 2013. That energy savings would be equivalent to a carbon dioxide reduction of 170 metric tons per year, the same as removing greenhouse gas emissions from 33 passenger vehicles.

According to ENERGY STAR, LED lights inherently use less energy than incandescent or other bulb types, with figures ranging from 75 to 90 percent less energy. These savings can be seen on the energy bills of their users. Additionally, LED lights produce substantially less heat than traditional lighting types, which makes them a safe choice for a school campus.

The university was able to pay for the retrofitting of the new lights through a 20-year energy efficiency loan from the state Department of Administration, the news source reports. School officials had to demonstrate that the new lights would pay for themselves primarily through 16 years of energy savings. Additionally, students contributed $105,000 from an Environmental Responsibility Account funded through their student fees.