Sunday, February 13, 2011

On Night Lights and the Butterfly Effect

So I've updated the tally this week to reflect the estimated energy savings that resulted from swapping out night lights with traditional incandescent bulbs to LEDs. Here's how the numbers were computed:

0.16 kWh/day (incandescents) - 0.012 kWh/day (LEDs)= 0.148 kWh/day difference
365 days/yr - 45 days lapsed thus far this year = 320 days remaining
320 days x 0.148 kWh/day = 47.36 kWh saved this year

Past experience tells us that 47 kWh is not really all that much energy-- unless we remember that we are part of a much larger, ever-growing community. The same economies of scale that allow companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald's to nickel-and-dime their way to juggernaut status can have similar implications in energy. Many environmentalists groan at well-worn admonitions to change light bulbs and turn off lights as hackneyed strategies that simply don't do enough to address our present environmental issues. And while such arguments may have some merit, we simply can't ignore the potential benefits to be had by encouraging small lifestyle changes across broad, ever-growing populations.

As proof, consider the potential energy savings if all six million south Floridians consciously decided to save just 47kWh every year. That would amount to around 282 gigawatt hours every year. To put that in perspective, it would take about 115,000 tons of coal to generate that amount of juice from a traditional power plant.

If you turn off just one night light in Miami, might the residual effects be felt across numerous state lines-- or entire oceans?

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