U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Weatherization & Intergovernmental Program
Natural Lighting to Lower Charity's Energy Bill
July 15, 2010
By Austen Sherman
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul's main warehouse is shining from within.
The non-profit organization secured $48,533 from the Arizona Department of Commerce's State Energy Program and a $18,660 rebate from Arizona Public Service to invest in a new "daylighting" project.
The project will allow the St. Vincent de Paul's warehouse in Phoenix to use natural lighting during the day, potentially saving $14,000 a year while reducing carbon-dioxide emissions.
"We now have more money to help supply food, and medical and dental care," said Steve Zabilski, executive director at St. Vincent de Paul. "We are so grateful to everyone involved for this opportunity."
The non-profit organization is one of 14 groups to receive a total of $637,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for renewable-energy projects throughout the state.
These projects obtained an additional $616,000 from rebates or grants.
Zabilski said that it was nearly impossible to go before St. Vincent De Paul's board to ask for money for energy improvements because the organization needed its cash to fund services for clients.
The Natural Lighting Co., headquartered in Glendale, is completing the energy project on behalf of St. Vincent de Paul. "Daylighting is the simplest form of solar energy you can use," said Bruce Bilbrey, vice president of Natural Lighting Co.
While the project is slated to be completed next week as long as weather continues to permit progress, the 36,000-square-foot warehouse has kept 40 percent of Bilbrey's staff working full-time the past five weeks.
According to Bilbrey, projects like this generally have about a 15-year life span. That would translate to energy savings of more than $210,000 over the life of the equipment.
The charity will use a passive daylighting system. In this design, a dome and reflective light shaft work with a diffusing lens to light the interior of the building. It provides even lighting across the building as opposed to skylights, which create uneven shadows with the movement of the sun.
Each of the 32 lighting units is assembled on the roof of the warehouse. When assembly is complete, a 4- by 4-foot square is cut in the ceiling and the units are put in place.
"This project is saving money and creating jobs," said Grady Bailey, energy director of the Arizona Department of Commerce.
Not only will the new lighting fixtures provide a savings for the St. Vincent de Paul, but Bilbrey said that studies have shown a significant increase in levels of production while using natural light. It provides twice as much light and less heat than electrical lighting.
"We take efficiency very seriously," Zabilski said.
Bilbrey expressed an interest in returning to St. Vincent de Paul to help improve the electrical lighting to be more efficient for cloudy days and late nights at the warehouse.
Despite having done more than 20 million square feet worth of work, Bilbrey said that this project for St. Vincent de Paul is one of his favorites.
"It is especially rewarding when it helps a non-profit that is helping people every day on a community-wide level," Bilbrey said.
To view this article on the Arizona Republic website, click here.