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Aspen Skiing Co. replacing incandescent bulbs with more efficient lighting

ASPEN – The Aspen Skiing Co. has seen the light, and it’s not given off by incandescent bulbs.

The Skico approved a policy this winter that calls for incandescent lights in all its facilities to be eliminated and replaced by the end of 2011, Auden Schendler, vice president of sustainability said Monday.

Incandescent bulbs – the standard old light bulb most people are familiar with – aren’t as energy efficient as alternatives such as compact fluorescent (CFL) and light-emitting diodes (LED) lighting.

“It’s a space heater that happens to give off light,” Schendler said of the old bulbs.

Federal law aims to phase out incandescent bulbs by 2014, but that is being challenged by some Republican legislators. Skico isn’t waiting to see how the political debate plays out.

The company estimates that lighting accounts for about 15 percent of energy use in its hotels and office buildings. Skico Sustainability Manager Matthew Hamilton estimated that bulbs will be replaced in 3,000 to 4,000 lamps in 20 to 30 major facilities and numerous smaller sites. Schendler said that includes everything from guest rooms at The Little Nell hotel to the patrol shack at the top of the Ruthie’s chairlift.

In a handful of cases, bulbs cannot be replaced – in outdoor lighting subjected to cold temperatures, for example.

A rough guess is the up-front costs of the replacement will be between $100,000 and $150,000, though exact figures won’t be known until later this month, Hamilton said.

The investment is worth it, the Skico policy statement said, because of the advantages of the new lighting. “High return on investment from energy savings and increased bulb life means retrofits have become fiscally prudent,” the policy says.

Incandescent bulbs typically last 2,000 hours, according to Hamilton, while CFLs last 10,000 hours and LEDs last 50,000 hours. The LED rating merely means that it will lose 30 percent of its brightness. It will continue to work long after that point, he said.

So the Skico will replace bulbs less frequently after the switch, and the company will consume less electricity. The energy costs will be reduced by $24,000 to $35,000 in the first year, Hamilton said. That helps generate a return on investment very soon.

Schendler said the lighting retrofits are consistent with Skico’s broad efforts to decrease its production of carbon dioxide and increase its sustainability. The Skico’s environmental program is designed to reduce activities which require burning of fossil fuels.

Retrofitting is already substantially completed at the Snowmass Club, one of the Skico properties, according to Schendler. There is a substantial amount of work to do at The Little Nell, he said.

Schendler tried to replace incandescent bulbs at The Little Nell soon after he became the Skico’s primary green guy several years ago. The idea was rejected by Eric Calderon, then the general manager, because he was concerned that guests would complain about the dimmer lighting in the rooms and that the switch would put the hotel’s top-level, five-diamond, five-star rating at risk. Calderon won the argument.

“That was my first great attempt at sustainability, and it failed,” Schendler said.

CFLs have improved dramatically since then, Schendler said, and LED bulbs also eliminate poor lighting as an issue. The Skico is working with bulb manufacturer Sylvania on the retrofits. The company sees the partnership as a way to use Aspen as a model of what can be done, Schendler said.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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