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Sustainable Revolving Fund Lights Up Hampshire Performances

Posted: March 26, 2013

By Michael Samuels 09F

As any actor can confirm, stage lights are very bright and very hot. What might not cross every actor’s mind is how much electricity those lights use.

A week of performances on Hampshire’s main stage uses “the amount of electricity that a household uses in a month,” says Amy Putnam, the theatre program’s staff technical director.

That makes for a big electric bill and carbon footprint.

New LED lights, on the other hand, use a fraction of the energy that incandescent lights use. The cost-savings are huge, but the problem is buying all of the new equipment.

That’s where Hampshire’s Sustainability Revolving Fund (SURF) comes in. It lends money to environmentally friendly projects that will save money down the road. Once the money is made back, it returns to the fund to be used for another project.

In 2011, Hampshire joined the Billion Dollar Green Challenge, committing the College to setting up a sustainability revolving fund. Work to create the revolving fund began before that, says Steve Roof, who now heads the SURF committee. Four of his students, Alicia Ludin 10F, Jack Spagnola 10F, Martha Pskowski 09F, and Rebecca Siegel 08F developed a proposal for the fund, and a charter describing how it would operate, in 2010. With a few tweaks to that plan, SURF was ready for project proposals by spring 2012.

Putnam leapt at the opportunity. So did Larry Berger, the technical coordinator for music and dance, who wanted to replace the lights in Hampshire’s dance studio with LEDs.

Putnam says LED technology is currently at a stage that will allow her to replace half the theatre lights, while Berger can replace about 70 percent of the dance studio lights. Once the necessary infrastructure (new control boards, etc.) is in place, it will also be much cheaper to replace the rest of the lights in the next few years.

The first phase will “cut our usage by fifty percent,” Putnam says of the theatre lighting. When the rest of the theatre lights are replaced, “eighty five percent of my energy usage will be reduced.”

She and Berger agree that it’s difficult to calculate the exact difference in electricity, as LEDs rarely need to run at full power, and one instrument can sometimes create the same color effect as three incandescent instruments.

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