LEDs and Energy Management Systems Take Northwestern Energy Savings to New Level

Scott Hayworth is not afraid of the dark. However, as chief electric engineer for Northwestern University's campus in Evanston, Illinois, he is concerned about light.

Hayworth maintains the University’s exterior lighting system, which, until recently, wasn’t easy. Light fixtures around campus used mostly metal halide lamps, which have short lifespans, are energy-intensive and quickly lose their brightness once installed. The lamps left many areas poorly lit and had to be checked manually by Hayworth’s 15-person team on a regular basis. Thanks to Hayworth’s leadership, the University’s outdoor lighting has been streamlined.

Phase one of a two-part project to replace all of Northwestern’s exterior lighting with high-efficient LED light fixtures will be finished in September. The project, which cost $2.8 million and took more than four years of pitching, planning and execution, already has resulted in significant energy savings and improved labor efficiency. Most importantly, the project has moved the University toward achieving its sustainability goals.

In conjunction with the new LED lighting upgrades, Hayworth installed advanced integrative software that automatically alerts him via text message when a bulb burns out, eliminating the need to send someone around campus looking for burnt out bulbs. The software also allows Hayworth to maximize the entire exterior light system’s efficiency by remotely controlling brightness levels. And when a LED fixture malfunctions, Hayworth and his team can access diagnostics that will tell them exactly what’s wrong. “We often base efficiency on kilowatts saved, instead of focusing on what the systems are capable of doing to decrease labor,” Hayworth said. “My team comes in and enjoys its job more, and I see that boost in morale and productivity every day.”

A Preview of More to Come

Inside Northwestern’s electric shop, Hayworth and his staff manage multiple dashboards controlling the University’s energy usage, a preview of the type of holistic smart energy systems the University will employ as part of its strategic sustainability plan. Most outdoor lights run on GE LightGrid software, while indoor lighting for select buildings runs on Quantum Vue.

For the Northwestern Kellogg School of Management’s Global Hub, which opened in March, for example, Hayworth sets Quantum Vue to maximize energy efficiency based on available sunlight. The software automatically lowers shades and dims the lights when the sun is shining, which saves energy via decreased electricity used on lights and air conditioning, as the shades cool the building’s internal temperature naturally.

Eventually, multiple platforms will be streamlined into one system in which all energy assets are “talking” to each other, Hayworth said. “We do use different platforms, but I wanted to get the best of the best for each system (indoor and outdoor) and the best possible lights,” he said. The outdoor LED fixtures, meanwhile, are equipped with photocells that detect light, so they automatically dim or brighten based on the amount of sunlight. The GE LightGrid dashboard tools also allow Hayworth to remotely dim or brighten individual lights or groups of lights, and set temporary schedules for special events-such as turning on lights around Northwestern’s Ryan Field early and shutting them off later than usual for a Saturday evening football game.

Hayworth also can respond nimbly to a stressed electrical grid. “If in the future ComEd calls and say we need to reduce our power use [during peak time usage], we can respond and dim our lights, reduce our fans and start our generators without causing a big disruption to campus,” he said.

Moving forward, Hayworth said Northwestern’s residence halls are ripe for installing such energy management systems. Residence halls could, for example, reduce fans or regulate the use of washers and dryers during peak hours, which translates to less stress on the grid, energy savings and a lower energy bill.

Pushing the Envelope

Hayworth’s team began the mammoth undertaking of replacing every outdoor light fixture on campus with LED technology in December 2016. The lighting and control upgrades have reduced Northwestern’s energy usage for lighting by more than 50 percent. In addition to a more modern, sleek look, the LED light fixtures provide improved light levels and distribution. Hayworth’s team replaced inefficient metal halide lamps in “acorn” fixtures-which release light in all directions-with new LED “shoebox” fixtures, which focus the light directionally to maximize efficiency and visibility.

Hayworth continues to push the limits of energy reduction through the outdoor LED lighting by testing out different lighting levels. He found that in general, the human eye can’t detect between 10 and 30 percent dimming. Hayworth put that principle to the test in forging a partnership with the City of Evanston that produced further energy savings.

Partnering on Energy Issues

Federal standards require certain buildings to keep on emergency lights when the main lights are shut off for the night. But Hayworth worked with the city to dim emergency lighting as much as possible and shut it off completely in vacant buildings. The lights then turn on full blast during emergencies such as a power outage or a fire. “I want to partner with the city as much as possible, and I like to help the fire department as much as possible,” Hayworth said. “We’ve discovered that in partnering on these issues, we are helping others looking to achieve energy savings. It’s all-inclusive help, from energy to labor efficiency to other unexpected benefits.”

Phase two of the project will be another two-year effort to replace all inefficient wall-mounted exterior lights on existing buildings. Northwestern expects to save more than 300,000 kilowatt-hours per year, or the annual energy use of 22 homes, after the project is complete.

About the Author
Joe Popely is a marketing content specialist at Northwestern University. He lives in Chicago and volunteers extensively for the U.S. Green Building Council Illinois chapter as a member of its Emerging Professionals Committee.