Just as consumers are now starting to embrace LED light bulbs as an alternative to standard lighting as costs fall and LED lighting technology proves reliable, so too are businesses moving to embrace new and energy energy that is proving to cut costs.

Need proof of commitment from businesses? Check out the renovation underway at the American Tobacco Historic District.

Capitol Broadcasting, the parent company of WRAL, WRAL.com and WRALTechWire, disclosed an ongoing, huge energy upgrade project at American Tobacco last week. While not disclosing the cost of the program, executives pointed out there would cost savings for the company as well as tenants at the mammoth 1-million square foot plus complex.

Duke Energy and Durham-based Cree, a global leader in energy saving LED lighting technology, are parts of the project.

Executives project that the changes will cut energy costs by as much as 18 percent a year.

Rick Polley, general manager for American Tobacco, talked with WRALTechWire about the energy upgrades.

  • What were the driving factors in making this decision?

The decision was a product of wanting to achieve three imperatives:

1. Energy conservation and sustainability

2. Staying on the leading edge of being smart both technologically and economically

3. Maintaining and improving the operating expenses for our tenants

  • How long has the project been underway, and what is the timeline for completion?

We began talking with Duke Energy in March of 2012. We will be totally complete with execution by mid October.

  • Does Capitol receive any sort of tax benefits from an energy conversation project? Please explain.

There are tax benefits associated with energy reduction initiatives (referred to as Part 179D tax incentives). These are available to any business that pursues energy reduction.

  • After owning and renovating the property over 10 years, had the time come for energy system upgrades or was this a conscious decision to set an example for others developments/projects as well as cutting costs?

The technologies that we are deploying have either recently been developed or have started to make a lot more sense from a cost / benefit standpoint. The combination of this and a concerted effort to deploy impactful, sustainable solutions at The American Tobacco Campus represent the genesis of our decision to move forward. As you can imagine, a complex like American Tobacco can use considerable energy.

It is also the largest bucket of annual expense for the property.

Therefore, we were able to be significantly impactful on both the sustainability and economic fronts

  • How does this project enhance the appeal of the complex as a place to do business?

It underscores and reinforces the fact that we are willing to take big steps….make big investments in our initiatives to drive a very high quality economic environment for businesses that want to be here. Continually enhancing the experience of working, living and/or visiting The American Tobacco Campus while driving down the cost structure is a value proposition we feel strongly about.

 The Upgrades

The project includes more than 1,000 interior and exterior CREE LED lighting fixtures. LED lighting is more energy efficient and lasts longer than other conventional forms of lighting.

Other upgrades:

  • Updates to the existing HVAC systems to optimize demand control for campus buildings;
  • Chiller system upgrades and control optimization to manage the heating and cooling times for campus buildings;
  • Lighting control and demand control upgrades to prevent non-stop energy usage;
  • Progress towards ENERGY STAR certification