U.Va.'s Lighting of the Lawn Dec. 4; This Year's Lights More Energy Efficient

November 26, 2008

November 26, 2008 -- Let there be sustainable light.

The eighth annual Lighting of the Lawn ceremony will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 4, with Alexander G. "Sandy" Gilliam, secretary to the Board of Visitors, as master of ceremonies and several student vocal groups performing.

While the ceremony has become a tradition, this year students have added a new dimension — replacing the old incandescent bulbs with more energy efficient light-emitting-diode (LED) bulbs.

The new lights should use about one-sixth the energy as the old bulbs, said Wayne Russell of Facilities Management, who is in charge of the light installation.

"We were interested in investing in the future," said U.Va. undergraduate David K. Jessee, chairman of the student committee that directed Lighting of the Lawn. "It's a chance to achieve an environmental goal."

Jessee said the lights were purchased through a donation from Dominion Virginia Power. The students bought about 215 strands of lights, each one 24 feet long and with about 70 bulbs per strand, giving them nearly 16,000 bulbs and more than 5,000 feet of light. The strands will be wrapped around the columns of the Rotunda this year, Jessee noted.

Elizabeth "Libba" Bowling, an energy engineer with Facilities Management, said the LED lights should save a calculated 1,300 kWh of electricity.

"The rated life of the LED lights is 50,000 hours as opposed to 3,000 hours for the incandescent lights," she said. "Including replacement costs, the LED lights should save approximately $200 per year."

The lights will be on every night from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. through at least New Year's Day.

"The Lighting of the Lawn is a community event," Jessee said. "We want to encourage residents of Charlottesville to come to the lighting."

The tradition started in 2001 following the September terrorists' attacks that year in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania.

"It was a way to bring the community together," Jessee said. "Since then it has grown."

Jessee estimates about 6,000 people will attend this year's event. Aside from the a cappella groups, Gilliam will read a poem the students have written and there will be receptions at most of the Pavilions on the Lawn.

About 20 students worked on the Lighting of the Lawn, with assistance from various student organizations, the Office of the Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer, U.Va. Catering, the Office of Major Events and the Rotunda administrator.

— By Matt Kelly