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Council wants lights amid the action

City council wants Whitehorse lit up for the Canada Winter Games.It wants residents to flick on their outdoor Christmas lights during the…

City council wants Whitehorse lit up for the Canada Winter Games.

It wants residents to flick on their outdoor Christmas lights during the three-week sporting event, February 23 to March 10.

“No, no, we worry about too many things in this world,” said councillor Dave Stockdale. “For two weeks, energy conservation is a minor concern. I mean, if we tried to follow and do everything we’re supposed to do we’d all live to be 200 years old and there would be no fun for anybody.

“Let your hair down every once in a while, even if there’s a negative side to it. You don’t look at those things, you look at the positive side of these things — energy consumption doesn’t concern me.”

Take down the Christmas yard decorations, but leave up the house lights said Stockdale.

Council is not trying to push Christmas; it just wants the city to look bright and cheery for the Games.

“We’re just trying to make the town look festive. It’s a party and we need lights and that kind of thing to make it a party atmosphere for those weeks — make it more colourful and everybody will just get in the spirit that much more,” said Stockdale.

Turning Christmas lights back on for the duration of the Games is a waste of energy, said Lewis Rifkind of the Yukon Conservation Society.

 “One concern we have is that a lot of these big buildings that are being used or constructed for the Canada Winter Games are not the height of energy efficiency,” said Rifkind.

“While it’s true they are new structures and are more energy efficient than old structures they are definitely not state-of-the-art, so we’ve got an energy loss happening there — then, to compound that by having everyone have neon displays, well it does seem a little bit environmentally unsound.”

Rather than switching their lights back on, people should support the Games by volunteering, said Rifkind.

“If it’s just for a visual impression for tourists, just to light up our city, I would have to argue ‘what’s the point?’” he said.

Even with the kitchens running full-time at Yukon College to feed all the athletes, ice machines running at the arenas, all the Christmas lights on and the added energy consumption from the new athletes’ village, Yukon Energy can meet the demand, said spokesperson Janet Patterson.

Only if temperatures dropped to minus 40 would the city have to turn on its diesel generators to produce enough power during the Games.

Currently, the utility has enough power to run the city and two mines, said Patterson.

“And two new mines would use a lot more electricity than the Canada Games would, so the short answer is I don’t think you have to be worried about us running diesel because of any activities connected with the Canada Winter Games,” said Patterson.

“I understand that the city is asking people to leave their Christmas lights on for the Games — it is so tiny in terms of overall consumption that it’s not going to be a problem for us.”

However, the public’s choice of light bulbs could make a difference.

The older, larger, incandescent outdoor light bulbs can burn up to 300 watts of energy per string, said Shane Andre of Whitehorse’s Energy Solutions Centre.

This translates to about 80-kilowatt hours, or $8 for an average household using five strings of lights for the duration of the Games.

However, if the residents of Whitehorse used the new, energy efficient L.E.D. light bulbs to decorate their houses they would consume 95 per cent less energy said Andre.

“It depends on the type of lights. New L.E.D. Christmas lights — it’s not a significant load on the grid … you’d have to string up a number of those to even add up to a single 100 watt bulb,” said Andre.

So, Energy Solutions’ message: “If you want to keep your lights on during the Games, we would suggest using energy efficient lights,” said Andre.

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