Bemidji

Efficient lighting illuminates education and discovery at Headwaters Science Center

LED upgrades save energy & money

Shining a Light on
Science

 

Since 1993, Headwaters Science Center (HSC) in Bemidji has inspired “scientific discovery and love of learning for all” by providing hands-on science and technology exploration in northern Minnesota.

So it’s no surprise that the organization sees an opportunity to inspire and educate others about clean energy after completing a project to replace outdated lighting in the building with energy efficient LEDs, which the Center completed last year with the support of a Northwest CERT Seed Grant.

 

For those 30,000 members and visitors, experiencing the Center’s programs, we know that brighter and more attractive lighting serves our members and visitors better by providing improved illumination and a more attractive appeal.

Lee Furuseth, Executive Director at Headwaters Science Center

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Photo: Working on a craft project under bright, energy-efficient LED lights.

 

A bright idea

“For those 30,000 members and visitors, experiencing the Center’s programs, we know that brighter and more attractive lighting serves our members and visitors better by providing improved illumination and a more attractive appeal,” said Lee Furuseth, executive director at Headwaters Science Center.

Furuseth worked with a team of HSC staff, board members, and other volunteers, Northwest CERT coordinator Shannon Stassen and staff at Otter Tail Power Company to explore the Center’s energy needs and then finalize a project and scope of work to upgrade the Center’s lighting.

“It’s great to see an organization dedicated to science take advantage of the latest in lighting technology by installing LEDs,” said Roger Garton, senior commercial and industrial representative at Otter Tail Power Company, who helped support the team’s work.

The Center hired Eric Ruffin, a local electrician from Bessler-Wiebolt Electric Company to complete the lighting retrofit, installing 120 new or repurposed lights including LED lighting above the Center’s main exhibit floor, in its upper science lab, staff offices, over its Raptor Exhibit, in the MakerSpace area, and in the Center’s store. Other light fixtures were repurposed in the Center’s basement, water testing lab, workshop and exhibit storage area.

Completing this project, even with some setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrated leadership and has helped the organization move forward through a challenging time.

“The costs of this project would have prevented the Headwaters Science Center from being able to upgrade our lights. This project would not have occurred without the rebates from Otter Tail Power Company and the Seed Grant from CERTs,” Furuseth said.

 

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Photo: Roger Garton, Senior Commercial and Industrial Representative is seen here presenting a check for just over $4,800 from the Otter Tail Power Company to the Headwaters Science Center. Pictured with Roger are Ryan Kolka, Staff Infrastructure Committee Representative and Lee Furuseth, Executive Director.

It’s great to see an organization dedicated to science take advantage of the latest in lighting technology by installing LEDs.

Roger Garton, Senior Commercial and Industrial Representative with Otter Tail Power Company

Illuminating cost savings and other benefits

After completing the upgrades last year, the project team and guests have been happy with the final results.

“We are very pleased with the installation of new lights… The lighting is a huge improvement, and our energy bills are reduced,” Furuseth said.

The new lighting uses significantly less energy. The team estimated a savings of more than 18,000 kWh per year, or a dollar savings of nearly $1800 per year. Other benefits cited include the fixtures’ appearance, improved visibility in the facility, and the lighting’s functionality.

“While the lights are much smaller, they illuminate much more. [They’re] much brighter for guests, visitors and staff,” Furuseth said.

Those guests and visitors have been sure to express their approval.

“Our staunchest members and supporters love the lights.” Furuseth said. “It is particularly gratifying when a guest or members stand just inside our front door and marvel at the much brighter appearance. The most typical reaction has been somewhere between ‘Wow!’ and ‘Now, that’s more like it!’”

 

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Photo: The Headwaters Science Center space in 2012, prior to lighting upgrade.

 

The team was also pleased with its experience of applying for a CERT Seed Grant and recommends other organizations communicate throughout the process using multiple lines—from email to phone calls and text messaging to get the most out of the resources and support along the way.

Our staunchest members and supporters love the lights. It is particularly gratifying when a guest or members stand just inside our front door and marvel at the much brighter appearance. The most typical reaction has been somewhere between 'Wow!' and 'Now, that's more like it!'

Lee Furuseth, Executive Director at Headwaters Science Center

Photo Slideshow: Before and After

Adapting project goals

While the lighting retrofit was a clear success, the HSC team did navigate some setbacks to its original project goals as a result of closures, delays and stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team completed the lighting upgrades as planned, but had to postpone developing their “Shine a Light on Science” exhibit to showcase topics related to the lighting technology and clean energy. The team still hopes to complete this exhibit and host a major event to display the project, once the team can meet in-person again. 

“We are looking forward to telling this story to our guests and visitors through a new exhibit dedicated to lighting technology,” Furuseth said.

When it comes to other clean energy upgrades, the Headwaters Science Center project team isn’t losing momentum. The team is already in the process of accepting bids for replacing the building’s windows, which will improve the building envelope and efficiency.

“This [lighting project] has made us realize that there are other features of the Science Center that need updating and replacement. Our windows are over 60 years old. The heat is floating right out of our porous, single pane windows,” Furuseth explained.

Approaching these projects with an open mind and experimental approach, Headwater Science Center is leading by example to improve its building’s energy efficiency and providing unique ways to learn about and share the benefits of clean energy.

Project Snapshot

 
  • Clean Energy Focus: Lighting Upgrade
  • NW CERT Seed Grant: $8,277
  • Total Project Cost: $25,340
  • Other Funds: Utility rebate, community donations through Give to the Max, electric contractor donation, the Center's Infrastructure budget
  • Project Team: Cam Williams, HSC Board of Directors/Chairperson of the Infrastructure Committee; James Ekstrom, HSC Board of Directors/Infrastructure Committee/Board Treasurer; Ryan Kolka, HSC Staff/Infrastructure Committee; Lee Furuseth, HSC Executive Director; Roger Garton, Ottertail Power Company; Eric Ruffin, Bessler-Wiebolt Electric Company
  • People Involved and Reached: 30,016
  • Annual Energy Savings: 18,239 kWh
 
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