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Arrow Lakes expects to save $4,000 per year from widespread lighting improvements

Image of Nakusp Secondary School
Nakusp Secondary is part of the Arrow Lakes School District, a little district that went big with energy efficient lighting upgrades and figures to save about $4,000 a year in the process.

Arrow Lakes expects to save $4,000 per year from widespread lighting improvements

Arrow Lakes School District is set within a peaceful, spectacular mountain environment in the West Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia. Rocky peaks soar above the world's only inland temperate rainforest, home to ancient cedars, and wildlife including elk, bear, kokanee and eagles. Cold, clear water cascades from glaciers into pristine lakes.

The valleys are strikingly beautiful, and home to six small rural schools, each under the watchful eye of Art Olson.

As manager of operations and transportation, Olson performs a sort of magic. Over the past few years, he has managed to prioritize several lighting improvement projects across the district, while balancing the budget and the need to fix multiple roofs and fence borders, school buses and more.

With a student population of 466, Arrow Lakes is one B.C.'s smaller school districts. Olson oversees the day-to-day operations at six schools: Nakusp Elementary and Secondary schools, an Outdoor Education and Entrepreneurship Academy school in Burton for 14 students, a K-7 school for 100 students at Lucerne School in New Denver, and a K-7 school for 20 students in Edgewood, a small settlement on the western shore of Arrow Lake, accessed only by ferry. The district Distributed Learning School and Strong Start Centres are also under Olson's care.

Though small, Arrow Lakes faces many of the same hurdles as a school district 50 times its size: aging infrastructure, and the need to make improvements on a restricted operating budget. Like a lot of his peers, Olson makes the most of the grant money available, including cash incentives to retrofit outdated lights.

Annual cost savings expected to last 12 to 20 years

Over a two-year period, Olson has chipped away at a series of LED lighting improvements in the district, staggering the retrofits to stay on budget. He's removed more than 100 T12 fluorescents lamps, reducing the district's electricity consumption by 43,500 kilowatt hours – a $4,000 annual savings. The retrofit qualified for a cash incentive, and the district expects to recoup the investment for the new lights in about five years, with ongoing savings expected to last for 12 to 20 years, or the lifespan of the LEDs installed.

Even teachers have started noticing a difference. At Nakusp Secondary, a teacher recently approached Olson, asking if he'd refinished the gymnasium floor. The quality of light in the gym was that much better than before.

Even more impressive, Olson has managed to recycle every light bulb and lamp removed from the district. With no recycling services nearby, he reached out to a recycling company in Vancouver – more than a seven hour drive away – to see if it could help keep his old T12s and magnetic ballasts out of the local landfill.

It did – free of cost – only adding to the list of ways Olson is making the future brighter for the students of Arrow Lakes.