Siena has selected its first energy-saving – and cost-saving – project that will be paid for by proceeds from the College’s new Green Revolving Fund (GRF).

A retrofit using energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures in 30 outside campus locations will begin later this summer, according to Rich Tortorici, director of facilities management operations. 

“LED lighting offers a great potential to reduce energy use,” said Tortorici. “This is not only due to the high luminous efficiency of LED lighting, but also its longevity.” 

The LED conversion kits for the campus have already been purchased, and the retrofit is expected to be completed by this fall.

The U.S. Department of Energy currently projects that by 2035, LED lighting will be used in 84 percent of all lighting installations in the country. The technology has numerous benefits: reduced carbon dioxide emissions, lower energy consumption, reduced maintenance and generally higher efficiency. LED lights also have low heat generation and an optimized beam pattern.

“While the initial investment of an LED installation is usually higher than traditional lighting technology, it is important to estimate the cost savings over time, as well as recognize the positive environmental impact,” he said.

Material costs for the retrofit are $8,370, with labor from Siena’s own electricians at $3,000. Siena anticipates an incentive rebate of $4,350 from National Grid to reduce the College’s upfront costs as well as the ROI timeframe. All project savings will be reinvested back into the GRF.

The replacement LED lighting has an expected lifetime of 40,000 to 60,000 hours, whereas the current lamps’ lifetime expectancy is roughly 14,000 hours. Tortorici said in most cases LED lighting also provides a better quality lighting, which will improve campus aesthetics and security.

Siena made its commitment by signing on to the Billion Dollar Green Challenge created by the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI), which helps colleges achieve significant energy savings through the use of an innovative financing model. These self-managed funds at individual campuses, supplemented at Siena through donor support, regenerate themselves and create funding for future projects. 

“Green initiatives have an excellent return on investment, and now that Siena is part of this effort, it’s possible that we can do so much in the future to protect the environment,” said Kate Meierdiercks, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental studies and sciences. She and James Murtagh, Ph.D., professor of finance, several Siena students, and staff from the Finance and Administration, and Facilities departments help manage the fund and explore project options.

To seed and sign on to the green fund, the College earmarked $25,000 from its general fund (saved through reduced electricity costs during the pandemic shutdown) and collected $65,000 through a College fundraiser run by Development and External Affairs. 

“This is a collaborative effort across the College,” said Meierdiercks at last December’s sign-on. “Students, faculty, staff – we are all stakeholders. By taking part in the Billion Dollar Challenge Siena is really establishing a commitment to sustainability here on campus, and recognizing how important an investment it is. It will save the College money, improve the environment, and create learning and research opportunities on campus.”