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Brightening South Carolina's State Capitol

July 15, 2010 - 11:48am


Two years ago, the city of Columbia drafted a proposal to revamp lighting in some of the city's most used and important buildings, including fire stations, city hall, and gymnasiums. But, because of a tight budget, the lighting plan  –  and savings  –  were put on hold.

That changed with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, when Columbia was awarded a $1.4 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, — enough to complete the energy efficiency lighting upgrades in 46 buildings across the city.

"The grant was a perfect opportunity to pursue this project," said David Knoche, the general services director of Columbia.  The majority of the grant will support the energy efficiency project.

Through this change, the city will save more than $131,000 per year on energy and maintenance. In a time of tight budgets and limited spending, this amount makes a huge difference, said Mary Pat Baldauf, sustainability coordinator.

"Instead of using that money toward electricity bills, it can go to other city services," said Baldauf. "We can tell the residents of Columbia that we're saving money and really lead by example."

Installing 15,000 new lights

Lighting installation began in February and by mid July is approximately 70 percent complete. In total, more than 15,000 compact florescent lights will be installed at buildings, including fleet services building, a waste water plant and others.

"It's a huge undertaking," said Knoche, who hopes the project will be finished by the end of the summer.

The city contracted out the lighting installation to a North Carolina company for the project, but all five positions are being filled by Columbia residents.

So far, employees and residents seemed pleased with the results, said Knoche.

"Most areas have seen greatly improved lighting. We've had requests to add buildings that weren't originally included in the project."