Base’s new lights easier on the eyes, budget

EVERETT — If something seems different about the Navy base — particularly at night, around the piers where the big ships are tied up — it’s not the imagination playing tricks.

The former bright lights on the tall poles have been replaced with softer, light-emitting plasma fixtures, also known as LEP lights.

There’s no more glare.

The harsh yellowish light emitted from the piers at night has been replaced by the soft, blue-white glow of the plasma lights.

Not only is it easier on the eyes, it’s easier on the environment and Naval Station Everett’s budget.

The lights have been replaced on all 11 of the 80-foot poles at the piers, said Ray Smalling, energy program manager for Naval Facilities Engineering Command, an Everett-based Navy company that works on facilities.

In LED lighting — light-emitting diodes — light comes from a chip, Smalling said. In plasma lighting, the bulbs are filled with a metal halide gas that emits light when activated by the electrical signal.

The fixtures are more expensive to install but will save money in the long run.

Each of the 74 fixtures cost $2,500, for a total of $185,000. A reduced-energy incentive check from the Snohomish County Public Utility District cut more than $40,000 off that cost.

The PUD has been working with the Navy on energy saving, spokesman Neil Neroutsos said.

“We’re helping them to identify projects to reduce energy use and provide incentives,” he said.

The new pier fixtures are 540 watts each, compared to 1,200 for each of the old incandescent bulbs, Smalling said.

Each of the 74 new fixtures on the poles is expected to save $180 per year, for a total of more than $13,000 annually.

Replacing the old incandescent lamps would have cost about $50 apiece, he said.

“We’re looking at a 10-year payback,” he said.

With the new fixtures installed, the bulbs — which are about the size of a pinky fingernail, compared to the size of large zucchini squash for the incandescents — will be cheaper to replace when they burn out.

And they won’t burn out as soon. They’re expected to last 50,000 hours apiece compared to 22,000 for the old bulbs, Smalling said.

The work is part of an energy-saving push at four local Navy campuses — Naval Station Everett, the Smokey Point Exchange, the Jim Creek Naval radio station and the Pacific Beach station north of Ocean Shores on the Pacific Coast.

So far, the four locations together cut their power usage by 16 percent over a nine-month period this year compared with the same period last year, Smalling said.

Other measures included turning down the heat and replacing incandescent lights in parking lots, driveways and walkways with energy-saving lights.

In addition to saving energy, the lights at the pier and the others have another benefit called “dark sky.”

This means all the light is directed downward, while the old lights sent it outward as well, creating glare above the horizon at night.

The old high-pressure sodium lights on the streets and parking lots at Naval Station Everett, which used 300 watts apiece, were switched out for LED lights that use 68 watts apiece.

The dollar amount of the long-term savings is hard to calculate, Smalling said.

“It’s perpetual,” he said.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

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