Tribe saving Energy, cutting Costs with Lights

June 13, 2011

By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.

ONE FEATHER STAFF

                The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is looking at ways to cut costs and save energy – all with the flip of a switch.  Energy efficient lights and lighting upgrades are the focus of Erin Evans, one of two Climate Corps Fellows with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) working with CDOT this summer.    

New LED lights will soon be installed on the Oconaluftee Island Park saving energy and cutting costs. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather)

                “We are working hard to make the tribal buildings and the Reservation as sustainable and energy efficient as possible, and we are making rapid improvements,” she said. 

                Evans, from Charlotte, holds a Masters of Public Administration degree from Appalachian State University.  She related that the EDF was awarded grant money several years ago from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation and the Department of Energy to conduct audits on various EBCI tribal buildings. 

                “At the end of these audits, recommendations are given on how to help improve the energy consumption and what the payback period for making these improvements would be as well as the overall energy and monetary savings that can achieved,” said Evans.  “These include anything from lighting upgrades, adding light sensors to rooms to ensure lights are turned off when unoccupied, and it also works with the HVAC units to put them on a timer and reduce the amount of energy and electricity expenses at these buildings.” 

                According to Evans, audits have been conducted at a total of 38 buildings and she was in Snowbird last week doing more. 

                Some buildings, such as the Kituwah Academy, are already being upgraded Evans said.  In addition, the lights on the Oconaluftee Island Park will be fitted with energy-efficient LED lights towards the end of July. 

                “These LED lights are going to help us downgrade from 250 watts to 48 watts per light fixture,” she said.  “This will more than cut in half the energy being used.  These LED lights have been shown to have a long last life (60,000+ hours) as well as increase security and comfort to citizens.” 

                Damon Lambert, CDOT manager, commented, “Working with the tribe’s Strategic Energy Committee, the selected fellows will develop unique solutions to meet the tribe’s energy needs.  Their work will include a prioritization of tribal buildings by energy efficiency potential, develop a measurement/tracking tool for energy efficiency projects to aid in the development and implementation of green building standards, integrate current efficiency projects into tracking mechanisms, meet with current project architects to provide input and offer suggestions for energy efficiency and numerous other projects which will benefit the tribe in developing a management plan for better energy efficiency throughout tribal programs.”  

                The new EOC Building in Cherokee received a LEED Gold Certification rating.  That sounds great, but what does that mean? 

                “Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is an internationally recognized green building certification system,” said Evans.  “It uses different strategies to improve energy savings, water efficiency, and CO2 emission reduction.  There are different levels of LEED ratings – Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.”