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Energy Commission Funds Bright Idea for Improved School Lighting



Many schools have outdated, poor-quality lighting that can negatively impact student performance and drive up energy costs. But a California company, with support from the California Energy Commission, has gone to the head of the class in bringing better and more efficient lighting to classrooms while also saving money.

Union City-based Finelite, Inc. develops energy efficient high-performance lighting systems for educational, commercial, and healthcare facilities. In 2007, the company received a $2.2 million Energy Commission research grant to test an affordable lighting system for K-12 classrooms. Lighting costs for school districts can add up. It typically represents 30 to 40 percent of the total energy use in K-12 schools, and there are about 300,000 K-12 public school classrooms in California.

Finelite used the grant to install its fully assembled, pre-wired Integrated Classroom Lighting System (ICLS) in six schools around the state. The ICLS was developed with input from teachers and school administrators, so instead of being designed for traditional classrooms with desks and chalkboards, the ICLS was engineered for modern curriculums which make heavy use of audiovisual equipment, computers and smartboards.

The ICLS uses advanced lighting, dimmers, and occupancy sensors and includes a controller so teachers can tune the level, color and distribution of light. During testing, the system significantly improved lighting quality in classrooms while reducing energy use by up to 50 percent.

The ICLS was funded through the Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program. It is now found in classrooms around the country and the system has been adopted by the Collaborative for High Performance Schools as its primary performance standard for classroom lighting. The PIER program ended in 2012, and clean energy research is now funded through the Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge program, which began later that year.

Photo courtesy of Michael David Rose at Finelite

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Energy Efficiency

California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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