GE 'Lights Up' Columbia University Biosphere 2 Center As First Step to Energy Self-sufficiency By 2012

Oct. 30, 2002
New Ge T8 Ultra Watt-miser(r) System Delivers $45,000 in Annual Energy Savings

Columbia University Biosphere 2 Center, outside Tucson, Arizona, recently announced an ambitious goal to become energy `self-sufficient' by the year 2012. An important first step turned out to be as simple as changing the light bulbs.

    The Biosphere 2 Center selected GE Lighting and Earth Savers, a Tucson, AZ based energy conservation company, to install the latest in energy-efficient lighting products. Over 2,300 new GE 30W T8 Watt-Miser(R) Ultra fluorescent lamps and ballasts were retrofitted into Biosphere 2 Center laboratories, classrooms, offices, hotel rooms and dormitories. "By replacing the existing standard T12 fluorescents, we improved light levels, quality of light and increased lamp life, along with saving approximately 60 percent of the energy expended for lighting," explained Randy Decker, CEO of Earth Savers. The new lighting will save an estimated $45,000 annually or more than $300,000 over the life of the new lamps. Annual 'return on investment' for the project is estimated at 38.7 percent with a payback of 30.99 months, according to Earth Savers projections.

    With GE's exclusive Starcoat(TM) technology, the new T8 Watt-Miser also offers an 82 CRI (Color Rendering Index) and insures optimum color and light output.

    "One of the principle missions of our Center is education," explained Chris Bannon, Senior Vice President, Biosphere 2 Center. "This project has allowed us to demonstrate how much energy we can save just by using the best available technology. Conservation is the first step; exploring new, sustainable power sources will be the next step toward our goal of being energy self-sufficient by 2012."

    GE Lighting also contributed a unique new energy education tool to the Center. Mrs. Tawnya Mann's sixth graders from nearby Immaculate Heart Academy in Oro Valley, AZ, used a new GE Lighting on-line energy auditor, called `GELA', to conduct their own audit of the Biosphere 2 Center. The students logged in the existing light bulbs and GELA provided an instant summary of how much energy is currently being used, how much energy could be saved, and even recommended energy-efficient lights to replace the existing lamps.

    The students' GELA audit actually confirmed the results of the professional audit conducted by Earth Savers. Going one step further, the class then performed a similar audit of their own school and discovered a $150.00 annual lighting energy savings opportunity per classroom - a savings of $22,500 over the life of the lamps.

    "Teaching children the importance of saving energy in their everyday lives is a great role for the Biosphere 2 Center," added Bannon. "In addition, it was great to see the class take the lessons learned and make them tangible - in a real-world application in their own school."

    The GELA school auditor is part of a GE curriculum for teaching 'Energy and Light' which is available free, and online, to science teachers across America. The module, targeted at middle school science classes, teaches the history of light, with hands-on experiments in the science, technology and mathematics of light. An energy audit of the students' own school using GELA is one of the experiments.

    "We always search out new, innovative ways to teach our children about science and math - especially through a hands-on experience," explained Mrs. Tawnya Mann. "The children have truly enjoyed this project and we hope to continue to use the GELA energy auditor with future classes."

    The Biosphere 2 Center is Columbia University's 250-acre Arizona campus devoted to deepening understanding of earth systems vital to informed leadership of the planet. Its 3.1-acre, glass-enclosed, research laboratory allows systems-level research on the science of sustainability. Academic programs in earth systems for high school, undergraduate and graduate students as well as educational programs for 180,000 annual visitors and local school children are part of the Center's continued commitment to public outreach and education. For more information, visit

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