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Lifetime Cost Case Analysis: Energy-Efficient, LED-based Commercial Signage

Lightmark_led_1 If you haven’t noticed, commercial enterprises use lots of neon in their signage.  I drove around the neighborhood and found a few gas stations and a Sonic Drive-in with neons wrapped around the structure.  You can tell because the neon lighting breaks at the nodes.  Well, LEDs, while still a nascent lighting technology, have the potential to become the future signage lighting behemoth, if building owners can catch on to their benefits.  To get to that point, however, the stars will need to align so that the key decision maker does a costing analysis incorporating the operational benefits, in addition to the sticker price (initial costs). 

LED Technology Benefits:
LEDs have energy savings of up to 80% over neon lighting.  In addition to the energy savings, LEDs differ in size and electronic control.  Point blank, with LEDs, there’s reduced maintenance, reduced energy consumption, better light quality output, safer + lower voltage requirements, and low temperature performance.  They last longer, too.  There’s no gap in the illumination like there is with the neon.  And with a technology like LightMark, the units are variable so you use just the right amount for the project. 

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Costing + Payback:
LEDs pay for themselves in about 2-3 years.  When a decision maker is comparing neons (or some other light source) and LEDs, it’s important to make sure that the comparison is apples-to-apples.  Use a "lifetime cost of ownership" analysis:  (1) initial purchase price + (2) initial installation costs + (3) lifetime energy usage + (4) lifetime maintenance charges.  I’d suggest two more external considerations, which aren’t factored into the lifetime cost of ownership.  First, consider the extent of liability (i.e., if neons tend to flame up at gas stations more than LEDs, there’s a tangible savings benefit [note - this may or may not be true]).  Second, consider the tax implications (i.e., state, local, or federal government offers tax credits/deductions for LED use, etc.). 

A few companies that have been incorporating this new technology include Arco, A&W, BP, McDonald’s, KalTire (Canada), Tsutaya (Japan), and Petro-Canada.  What it takes, however, is a paradigm shift from initial cost, or sticker price, to lifetime cost, and if owners aren’t making the change, the contractor should speak up and create value for the customer. 

Extra Links:
BP Case Study [TIR Systems]
LightMark + LightScript 
Energy-Efficient, LED-Based Signage [Grant Harlow - Buildings.com]

Current Energy: The World's First Home Efficiency Store

Current_energy_map This is not an advertisement or a commercial.  I was going to the iPod store on Knox (in Uptown, Dallas) and noticed this new store right next door called "Current Energy."  Tag line:  "We’ll plug you in."  I liked the design of the store and decided to go in and check the place out.  First impression, these people are very friendly and eager to help.  Second impression, what are they selling?  That’s below.  The store was pretty cool, and the website‘s not too shabby either. 

Here’s what they are selling/explaining/consulting, etc.:  Rinnai tankless water heater, Rainbird irrigation control, Toto dual flush toilet, Honeywell digital thermostats + air treatment systems, Lutron + Crestron whole house controls, Mitsubishi Mr. Slim ductless air conditioner, Neptune cfl + lighting science group LED lights, Trane xl19i Seer air conditioner, Radiant Barrier products, Vista window tinting and solar screens, Owens corning insulation products, etc.  They have a consultation room, kids learning center (using state-of-the-art macs and computer games), and home energy resource library. 

They give you information on switching your electric provider (explaining both the low-cost options (Gexa) and green options (Green Mountain)).  They can talk you through the benefits of Energy Star and you can ask them all sorts of questions.  They provide energy audit services, etc.  I did stump them a couple times with my questions, but they were willing to get the answers.  If you’re thinking about renovating, buying, building new, or whatever, you should educate yourself and go talk to these people.  They’ll open your eyes to new ideas, that’s for sure. 

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Here’s the address for all you Dallasites:
3103 Knox Street, Dallas, Texas  75205
www.currentenergy.com

Texas + Private-sector Partners to Invest $10 B in New Wind Energy Infrastructure

Vestas_wind Today’s a day when I feel pride as an SMU Mustang.  I was taking my little pooch, Colt, to the vet for his yearlies, when I saw a HUGE wing from a wind turbine with the logo "www.vestas.com."  I’ve never seen one of those up close, but it was tons bigger than I thought it would be.  Anyway, Governor Perry and tons of other private companies came to SMU to announce a partnership to invest $10 billion dollars in new wind energy infrastructure.  The partners include:  AES Wind Generation; Airtricity, Inc.; Babcock & Brown, L.P.; Gamesa Energy Southwest; Horizon Wind Energy; John Deere Wind Energy; Orion Energy L.L.C.; PPM Energy; Renewable Energy Systems (USA); Shell Wind Energy Inc.; Superior Renewable Energy; D.H. Blattner; GE Energy L.L.C.; Mortenson; Siemens; Trinity Structural Towers, Inc.; and Vestas-Americas Inc. 

To begin with, I’m a little skeptical.  Recently Governor Perry came out in support of TXU’s plan to dot the Texas map with 16-17 coal plants.  Not only does Kinky support renewables, but he’s against TXU.  The same goes for Strayhorn and Chris Bell.  I mentioned in my blog that I thought the state could do more to chase renewables and added that coal energy has hidden costs that don’t factor into the consumer’s bill–cheap energy for small towns is a small-minded solution.  Nevertheless, regardless of whether Perry is political grandstanding, I’m excited about this partnership for wind energy infrastructure.

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As of December 2004, about 10% of Texas’ energy needs were sourced from renewables.  Under this partnership, private companies will invest capital in wind energy generation while the Public Utility Commission will construct additional transmission lines to deliver the power.  Such a large investment in wind energy should help Texas diversify its energy sourcing and slow down carbon dioxide emissions.  For every 1,000 megawatts of new wind energy, Texas reduces emissions by 6 million tons over a 20 year span.  This is great news for the state of Texas. 

Extra Links:
State, Private Partners to Invest $10B in Wind Energy [Dallas Business Journal]
Governor Uses SMU’s Embrey Building to Announce Wind Initiative [SMU]
::UPDATE: TXU Reveals Competitive Strategy [Dallas Business Journal]



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