How high-efficiency garage lighting from Westinghouse Lighting Solutions helped Las Vegas hotel-casino cut energy costs and greenhouse gases.

A retrofit project using Westinghouse Lighting solutions helped the Stratosphere cut energy costs and improve lighting quality inside its parking garage.

The management team at the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas knows something about figuring the odds. So the truth is, the executives knew they weren’t taking much of a chance when they went all in on a new lighting system for their attached parking garage. It was more like a sure bet with a guaranteed payoff in energy savings and better lighting.

The Stratosphere Las Vegas Hotel & Casino features an 80,000-square-foot casino, more than 2500 guest rooms and suites, and the 1,149-foot Stratosphere Tower. Guests can strap themselves in for “Insanity the Ride,” a mechanical arm that extends 64 feet over the edge of the tower and spins them at a force of 3 Gs as they look straight down at Las Vegas. Or they can opt for “X-Scream” and “Big Shot,” additional rides based on the tower.

It’s all part of the fun for visitors to try their luck in the casino and on the death-defying thrill rides. But when it comes to the parking garage, the Stratosphere wants to ensure customers’ and employees’ safety. The objectives for the September 2008 retrofit included better security, higher light levels and increased efficiency.

By today’s standards the existing system in the Stratosphere garage was antiquated. It consisted of 885 2-lamp 8-foot fluorescent T12 HO fixtures and 1328 High Pressure Sodium (HPS) fixtures. The fluorescent fixtures were drawing 235 watts per each; the HPS fixtures, 175 watts. Altogether, the system was consuming more than 440 kilowatts per hour of operation to deliver an average of 4 to 5 footcandles of light. Although this meets Office of Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommendation for 3.5 footcandles “at the key,” (in other words, on the door handle of the car where a driver would need visibility to unlock the door), the Stratosphere wanted to do better - both to create a safer, brighter parking environment for customers and to improve the performance of security cameras.

After putting the garage-lighting requirements out for competitive bid, Stratosphere selected a high-efficiency fluorescent system from Westinghouse Lighting Solutions. The system was provided and installed by Moonlighting Alternative Energy Solutions, a Westinghouse Lighting Solutions distributor specializing in installations for improving energy efficiency and environmental performance.

The new system was designed to be a one-for-one replacement. Each of the 2,200-plus existing fixtures was replaced with a Westinghouse Lighting Solutions V4 Series enclosed and gasketed 2-lamp T8 fixture. Rated for use in wet and corrosive locations, the V4 Series features a durable polycarbonate lens to be damage and vandal resistant. In addition to resisting the wear-and-tear typical of parking garage applications, the V4 Series consumes an energy-sipping 76 watts per fixture. This means the Stratosphere system’s total energy use per operating hour is only 168 kilowatts. Compared to the 440 kilowatts of the previous system, this represents a savings of nearly 62 percent. In other words, the new system is saving Stratosphere approximately two-thirds of its lighting dollars.

The full financial and environmental impact of these savings is underscored by the fact that the Stratosphere parking garage is lighted 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Consequently the new system is producing year-round energy and cost reductions. Over the course of a year, these will total nearly 2.5 million kilowatt hours. At the current KWH rate of 9.75 cents, these savings will return more than $231,000 to the Stratosphere’s bottom line after the first year. At this rate, the project will pay for itself within the first year or operation, then continue paying a hefty return on investment every year after that.     

The environment’s a winner too. The steep reduction of Stratosphere’s annual energy usage will eliminate in excess of 1,350 tons of CO2 emissions annually, the equivalent of taking 225 cars off the road each year, or the amount of CO2 from 140,000 barrels of oil.

The considerable financial and environmental savings Stratosphere will realize from the system represent only part of the environmental story, according to Jim Connelly, board chairman of Moonlighting Alternative Energy Solutions and a Green Advantage certified contractor.

The Stratosphere is known for thrill rides, such as the Big Shot atop the observation tower, but few are aware of its green-lighting initiative.

“This installation was 100 percent green,” he said. “The entire old system - fixtures, lamps and ballasts - was recycled through an EPA-approved vendor.” In recognition of the positive environmental impacts of the project, the Stratosphere was awarded a Green Power Fund certificate acknowledging its deep reductions of energy use and related carbon emissions.

The new system also meets the security and lighting goals for the project. While energy use has been cut by almost two-thirds, light levels have tripled - from less than 5 footcandles to an average of 15 footcandles. “The fixture layout looks great, and the overall appearance of the garage is significantly better,” Connelly said.

The quality of the light has improved as well. The new system has a higher Color Rendering Index (CRI), a measure of its ability to reproduce colors accurately. Consequently customers experience a more comfortable, natural light, and surveillance cameras capture clearer, more-accurate images to improve security.

The Stratosphere’s strategic decision to retrofit and upgrade its garage lighting system is a win-win for the casino, its customers and the environment. But companies don’t have to hit a lucky streak to achieve these kinds of results. “There’s a misconception that 50 percent savings is the best you can do with new lighting,” said Jay Goodman, Westinghouse Lighting Solutions managing director. “The Stratosphere installation shows you can do much better, with savings of 62 percent or more.”

Goodman said the project dispels two myths: first, that savings require a compromise in lighting and, second, that environmentalism is bad for business. A closer look at the Stratosphere project confirms that. Light levels (along with the quality of light and accompanying acuity) increased 300 percent. At the same time, energy cost reductions will amount to nearly a quarter million dollars a year at current utility rates - a figure that will go higher in the event of increases. In addition to providing a positive cash return, the energy-efficient lighting system actually buffers the Stratosphere against future price shocks. 

In Nevada, environmentalism and good practical business converge in NV Energy’s “Sure Bet” demand-side-management program, which offers commercial incentives and technical assistance for most types of electric energy savings projects. NV Energy provides electricity to Nevada and northeastern California. Sure Bet makes incentives and rebates available to assist commercial, industrial and institutional customers with energy-conservation projects that involve equipment retrofitting or replacement. According to Moonlighting’s Jim Connelly, “The Stratosphere project met all the requirements for a Sure Bet incentive payment to help offset a considerable portion of the overall cost. This is just one example, but typically there are local, state and federal rebates for energy-efficient fluorescent lighting upgrades like this.”