Historic City News has learned that, on Saturday, March 23 at 8:30 p.m. local time, businesses, households and governmental entities in communities all over the world will participate in the seventh annual “Earth Hour” by turning out lights for one hour as a way to show support for environmentally sustainable action.
The City of St. Augustine will participate by darkening the flood lights that provide up-lighting for the front of City Hall, but instead of a single hour, the city will darken the lights for the entire weekend including Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
“Lights out for an hour to start; find ways to conserve forever,” Public Affairs Director Paul Williamson told Historic City News reporters. “We hope that St Augustine businesses and residents will participate for one hour as a first step towards finding ways to conserve energy every day.”
Though not planned, the date of the “Earth Hour” event nearly coincides with the first anniversary of the energy efficient lighting system upgrade to the Historic Downtown Parking Facility,
The parking garage, which opened in 2006, utilizes more than 500 light fixtures and originally produced an electric bill in excess of $100,000 each year.
The facility is open 24 hours a day every day of the year and lighting for vehicular and pedestrian safety is essential. Turing lights off is not an option.
While looking at alternative lighting sources, and working with Shaffer Engineering Group, the city replaced the old-technology of high-pressure sodium fixtures with light-emitting diodes (LED) which consume much less electricity.
Williamson told reporters that of the total $408,000 price tag to replace the lighting on all four floors, $250,000 was paid with a grant from the US Department of Energy.
After a full year, the facility’s electric consumption and cost of electricity has dropped by half to approximately $50,000 annually.
At that rate, the city’s $150,000 investment may be recovered in a little over 3-years.