Airports Arrive at Savings Through LED Luminaires


Airports Arrive at Savings Through LED Luminaires

The nation’s nearly 3,000 airports in the Federal Aviation Administration system are some of the largest and most visible public users of energy. The enormous size and complexity of airport facilities provide an excellent opportunity for finding common solutions to problems such as the environmental impact and operating expenses from unnecessary energy use.
Energy is most often the second-largest operating expense at an airport, exceeded only by personnel. As energy costs increase, airport operations and maintenance costs increase, too. Airport facility managers are under tremendous pressure to reduce operational costs to help lower the bottom line for their airline tenants.
Fortunately, energy use is a controllable operating expense; by prudent, energy efficiency investments, airports can readily reduce operating costs from 10% to 30% annually.
Some of the largest airports are aggressively implementing “green” measures to save energy costs and to generate favorable impressions among travelers. One key to making day-to-day operations more energy efficient and more sustainable is through the installation of exterior LED luminaires.
For example, Spokane International Airport (SIA), the Airport Business Park and Felts Field Airport are owned by the city and county of Spokane, WA. The Spokane Airport Board operates and maintains them.
SIA, its website also says, is a 4,800-acre commercial service airport served by six airlines and two air cargo carriers. It is the second-largest airport in the state (after Seattle-Tacoma) and recognized by the FAA as a small hub.
Like many organizations and businesses, the Spokane Airport Board looks for ways to reduce energy consumption and costs, and to lessen maintenance expenses. After a two-year evaluation process, a two-phase lighting improvement project in SIA’s South Parking Garage was recently completed.
The project involved installation of 425 LED luminaires in the five-floor structure, which was built more than 30 years ago.
Phase I included running conduit, wiring and a control system to prepare the garage for Phase II of installing the new lights.
In a one-for-one replacement, 425 150W high-pressure-sodium (HPS) fixtures were retrofit with 80W LED luminaires. These fixtures are designed to have dramatically greater output than the previously installed HPS lights and produce a brighter, whiter light, making it easier for travelers to see their cars and feel safer at night.
The LED luminaires selected were particularly advantageous with this parking structure’s low ceiling heights, because they don’t produce any glare – a challenge with the previous HPS fixtures and many of the LED lights currently on the market. Additionally, during the two-year evaluation process, the photometrics of these luminaires were shown to be superior to the others tested.
“Reducing maintenance time and expenses was a driving force for this project,” said Ken Landrus, SIA facility maintenance supervisor. “We used to spend up to 16 hours each month changing this garage’s bulbs and ballasts on the HPS fixtures. Now it may be 10 years before we have to do anything to these LED lights.”
Landrus and the Spokane Airport Board are reportedly also pleased with the eight-year payback, $45,000 rebate from Avista Utilities, and the anticipated $20,000 in annual energy savings with the LED luminaires. They are so confident and impressed with this technology, they say, that all new lighting projects will be retrofitted with LED luminaires, when possible.

Airports are energy-intensive operations that can considerably lower costs by investing in energy efficient, virtually maintenance-free technologies; lighting is the largest opportunity to address those issues. Long operating hours means lights might be on nearly all of the time, providing an excellent return-on-investment in LED lighting.

Contact Mark Bolton, a Regional Sales Manager with Kenall Manufacturing lighting solutions, at


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Mark Bolton
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