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Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind to Launch Lighting Project

August 20, 2010 - 12:29pm


The Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind is replacing almost 2,900 lights in 19 buildings across its campuses.| Photo courtesy of Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind

The Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind is replacing almost 2,900 lights in 19 buildings across its campuses.| Photo courtesy of Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind

For over a century, students at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB) have proudly displayed the school colors—blue and red—in the hallways, classrooms and dorm rooms. But this school year, they’re “Going Green.”

The 152-year-old institute is replacing almost 2,900 lights in 19 buildings across its Talladega, Ala., campuses with energy-efficient fixtures, an upgrade expected to save the institute over $20,000 a year on utility bills.

Dubbing the project Going Green, the school is using a $198,275 award from the State Energy Program (SEP), distributed through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The project will replace old, inefficient lighting fixtures with energy-saving T5HO fluorescent lights.

It’s the first of many energy projects being implemented at the state and federally-funded AIDB.

“It is important for us to be energy efficient,” says president Terry Graham. “By doing these kinds of things, it sends the right message to the state and the taxpayers that we are doing everything we can do protect tax dollars, which ultimately saves jobs.”

Efficiency across campus

About 2,150 lights will be replaced in classrooms, gymnasiums, dormitories and cafeterias throughout the Alabama School for the Blind, Alabama School for the Deaf and Helen Keller School of Alabama campuses in Talladega. The institute will match the award with $63,974 to retrofit and replace another 695 lights.

The school has an annual electric bill of over $1 million, which it estimates could be shaved off by $22,000 a year due to the upgrades. 

“It it can make the difference to direct resources to things are important,” says Graham, citing staff salaries as an example.  “$22,000 adds up over the years.”

The institute’s maintenance department will install the lights, but the American-made lighting fixtures are being purchased from vendors in the Talladega area, Graham says.
 “We are appreciative that we are able to save money, but also create employment and do business for our community,” he adds.

The lighting upgrade is the first of several projects, including a forthcoming biodiesel endeavor called Project Green – partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy—and a push for ENERGY STAR-designated buildings.

The biodiesel production project is in its final phase and when complete will provide fuel for the campus’ fleet of vehicles, as well as some opportunities for the students.

“One of the most unique parts of that program is just not for fuel, but to incorporate workforce education and to involve students with the technology,” says Jessica Edmiston, a consultant acting as AIDB's assistant director for development.

Efficiency across the state

The blind and deaf institute, which has about 20,000 students in grades K through 12, is one 19 school districts — many from low-income areas in central Alabama — to receive funding under SEP’s $5 million Recovery Act funds allotted to retrofit schools in the state.

“Some schools always have a difficulty with funding, and we thought this was a way to help the schools financially — to save them money, so they can’t take those savings and put them to other means,” says Karl Frost, SEP manager.

The benefits don’t stop at cost and energy savings, though.  It’s also going to improve the learning environment, Frost says.

“A lot of those fixtures are 20 to 30 years, and they are not providing adequate lighting. Some are dingy looking lights that are dark yellow, and the bulbs are out on some,” Frost says. “Anything to help the learning environment for the students is definitely a plus.”