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Shipyard saves $400,000 a year, improves light quality, safety

Image of the interior view of a Seaspan Victoria workshop
Seaspan Shipyards has cut its energy use for lighting alone by about 1.25 GWh of electricity per year. It has also replaced a 150-horsepower air compressor with a variable-speed drive model that will save another 305,000 kWh of electricity per year.

Seaspan's Victoria Shipyards switches hundreds of lights to industrial LEDs

Inspecting the hull of a cruise ship or a 2,400-tonne submarine in the largest drydock on the West Coast is a job that absolutely depends on good light — and a lot of it.

So when Peter Gilbertson, assistant ship repair superintendent at Seaspan's Victoria Shipyards spoke with BC Hydro about energy-efficient industrial lighting, he found there were plenty of ways to save money and provide other benefits.

"We used to position 1,000-watt, high-pressure sodium fixtures on the dock bottom as well as underneath the ship," says Gilbertson. "It's black on black in some areas and that means no reflective light. We also have dockside lights, and dock top lights, plus high bay and exterior facility lighting. Overall, the facility draws about 10 megawatts of power."

In a five-stage retrofit program, virtually all of the Victoria Shipyards' high bay and exterior lighting fixtures have been replaced with industrial LEDs — about 500 lights. The shipyard has cut its energy use for lighting alone by approximately 1.25 GWh of electricity per year, enough to power about 115 homes.

Industrial LED lighting lasts longer, stays cooler, offers better safety

Gilbertson says in addition to cost savings, there are multiple other benefits from the upgrade, including:

  • Better light: The old lighting fixtures provided a "duller, yellow light" while the new LEDs give a more intense, brighter white — much better for working in enclosed spaces.
  • Less heat and greater safety: When refitting ships there are many areas and spaces that have to be temporarily lit. 200-watt incandescent bulbs were used extensively, generating a lot of heat. "If plastic or cardboard gets anywhere close to a heat source, there is the potential of a fire, which you never want on a ship," says Gilbertson.
  • Less breakage: When used near sandblasting equipment, traditional lighting was at risk of shattering if hit by sandblast grit. Since industrial LEDs are solid state, this risk is nearly eliminated, making the workplace safer and reducing downtime.
  • Less waiting: LEDs switch on immediately. In the past, if a circuit was broken, work had to stop while the lamps went through a 12 minute cool-down phase before they could be restarted.
  • Reduced maintenance costs: In 2012, Seaspan spent $42,000 just on 200-watt incandescent lamps. They replaced them with 27-watt LEDs that give off the same light and last four to six times longer. Longer-life LEDs also mean much less time is required to access and replace lamps in awkward locations.

Compressor upgrade adds to savings

The Shipyards also replaced a 150hp air compressor with a variable-speed drive model. The compressed air retrofit is saving an additional 305,000 kWh of electricity per year.

Taken together, the energy efficiency improvements at Victoria Shipyards are saving the facility about $400,000 per year and align with Seaspan's core values of safety, efficiency and care for the environment. Making use of BC Hydro industrial incentives — including the Self-Serve Incentive Program — the projects have an average payback period between two and three years.

"I was an electrician in the Merchant Navy and have seen a lot of electrical innovations in the world," says Gilbertson. "We also have a lot of wasteful usage in our society, so taking advantage of this incentive is just part of our corporate and personal responsibility — making things better, and feeling good about it.