University Adopts LED Lighting For Holiday Tradition

Last week at the University of Virginia (U.Va.), students and faculty gathered for the eighth annual Lighting of the Lawn ceremony. Alexander G. “Sandy” Gilliam, secretary to the Board of Visitors, served as master of ceremonies and several student vocal groups performed at the December 4th event.

Lighting of the Lawn takes place at U.Va.

Lighting of the Lawn takes place at U.Va.

While the ceremony has become a tradition at the Charlottesville, VA campus, this year students have added a new dimension—replacing incandescent bulbs with more light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. The new lights should use about one-sixth the energy as the old bulbs, said Wayne Russell of U.Va. Facilities Management, who is in charge of the light installation.

“We were interested in investing in the future,” said U.Va. undergraduate David K. Jessee, chairman of the student committee that directed Lighting of the Lawn. “It’s a chance to achieve an environmental goal.”

Jessee said the lights were purchased through a donation from Dominion Virginia Power. The students bought about 215 strands of lights, each one 24 feet long and with about 70 bulbs per strand, giving them nearly 16,000 bulbs and more than 5,000 feet of light. The strands were wrapped around the columns of the Rotunda this year (seen in photo above).

Dave Roberts of U.Va. hangs the new LED light strands.

Dave Roberts of U.Va. hangs the new LED light strands.

Elizabeth “Libba” Bowling, an energy engineer with U.Va. Facilities Management, said the LED lights should save a calculated 1,300 kWh of electricity. “The rated life of the LED lights is 50,000 hours as opposed to 3,000 hours for the incandescent lights,” she said. “Including replacement costs, the LED lights should save approximately $200 per year.”

The lights are kept on every night from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. through at least New Year’s Day.

“The Lighting of the Lawn is a community event,” Jessee said. “We…encourage residents of Charlottesville to come to the lighting.” The tradition started in 2001 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania.

“It was a way to bring the community together,” Jessee said. “Since then it has grown.” Jessee had estimated about 6,000 people would attend this year’s event.

About 20 students worked on the Lighting of the Lawn, with assistance from various student organizations, the Office of the Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer, U.Va. Catering, the Office of Major Events and the Rotunda administrator.

(Photos by Dan Addison)


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