LEDs a small change that can deliver big reduction in energy use, costs

Beginning in 2012, Macomb Municipal Airport in Macomb, Illinois, started down a path to reduce its energy consumption and the related costs — it began an initiative to transition the airport from incandescent lighting to LEDs.

The first project focused on the airfield. The electrical vault and associated equipment, the 20- to 30-year-old lighting on the runway and taxiway edge, and numerous taxiway guidance signs were replaced. Because this project would receive federal and state funding, a competitive bid was required. While typically this is not a challenge, at the time, there was only one manufacturer of airfield LEDs, which meant these items could not be considered competitive. Determined to make this transition, the airport worked with Hanson on a solution. The result was to bid the project with incandescent lighting and include an optional item to upgrade to LEDs. The airport was motivated to be a leader in the use of this technology and pursued the inclusion of the upgraded equipment, which was installed in the spring of 2014. Since the time of the bidding and installation, many manufacturers have developed LED products, and airports today would not face this same funding obstacle — but this project is indicative of this airport sponsor’s proactive nature.

For its next energy efficiency upgrade, the airport replaced its visual approach slope indicators (VASI) with precision approach path indicator (PAPI) lighting and upgraded these new units with LEDs. Faced with a similar challenge of only one manufacturer approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the airport worked with the state of Illinois and Hanson to determine a concept to install the proposed PAPI units using a Type B configuration — i.e., they were powered using a constant current regulator, as opposed to a low-voltage application. With a change in FAA guidance requiring navigational aids like a PAPI to stay illuminated 24/7, the installation of the PAPI/regulator configuration allowed the approaching pilots to increase the intensity of the PAPI units using radio control while allowing the unit to ordinarily functioning at a reduced power level. It was an efficiency increase while remaining compliant — a win-win application. Seeing the advantages of the technology and the potential return on investment over time, the airport proceeded with purchasing the equipment with local funds, and its installation was paid for using state and federal aviation funds.

The last upgrade included replacing the lighting for the parking lot and ramp. A grant opportunity through Ameren, the local utility provider, was identified, and the airport received funds that offset a portion of the overall replacement costs while decreasing energy expenditures.

Today, the airport’s lighting system upgrade is complete, and the benefits are seen daily. The reduction in energy consumption reduces the airport’s carbon footprint and energy bills. This initiative reduced energy consumption by approximately 35%, contributing to reduced direct energy costs. But the airport also sees indirect savings, because the LED upgrades have reduced maintenance costs. The incandescent lighting had to be replaced frequently compared to the LEDs, and the reduced effort required for this maintenance alone has saved money.

The airport took the initiative to undertake this multi-phased project to upgrade its lighting and become a more sustainable facility by reducing its energy consumption. After the initial investment, the result is a greener facility that financially benefits from the transition.

Do you want to know more about how LEDs can save your facility money? Contact Lindsay Hausman at lhausman@hanson-inc.com.

This post previously appeared on the Forming the Future blog.