When Pat Sharp started looking for a lighting system that would be energy efficient and practical for a theater, prospects were dim.

Sharp, the technical and operations director for Tulsa Performing Arts Center, began his lighting project more than two years ago.

"We couldn't find a supplier who could do what we needed to do," he said.

LED lights were ideal, but the bulbs could only dim 30 percent to 50 percent and Sharp said "we needed to get to 100 percent."

Sharp began working with Crossroads LED, a Tulsa-area company that designed a completely dimmable LED light.

"It will change how people do theatrical lighting," he said.

About 95 percent of the shows at the PAC take place with the house lights out, said John Scott, PAC director.

"Figuring out how to get over that hump, to get (the lights) all the way down, it's something completely unique," Scott said. "For (dimmable LED) house lights, it's new ground, new territory."

Now that it can be done, Sharp said other theaters, universities and performing arts centers in Tulsa, Texas and California have called, wanting information on the new lighting system.

In addition to the dimmable house lights in the theaters, stage lights, lobby lights and even the lighting over the PAC's artwork is making the switch to more energy-efficient bulbs.

The retrofit to LED lighting is both a cost and environmental savings, Scott said. Williams Theater had been using 300-watt light bulbs but now uses 38-watt bulbs.

"We have equal or greater light using a lot less energy," he said. "That's a huge, huge difference."

Phase I of the changeover is complete, Sharp said, and it's already making an impact on the electricity bill, which averages about $14,000 a month.

"It's already dropped it considerably," he said. "It will probably be under $10,000 when it's all said and done."

About $288,000, a portion of the Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant awarded to the City of Tulsa, funded the PAC's lighting project, said Brett Fidler, director of the Office of Sustainability.

With energy savings and rebates from American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma, the retrofit project is expected to pay for itself in three to four years, Sharp said.

Other advantages to converting to LED lights is they put out less heat than traditional light bulbs and the lifespan is much longer.

"It's freed up one of our maintenance guys to do other projects," he said.

The rest of the switch will happen as openings in the schedule allow, Scott said. The PAC hosts about 500 events and performances a year.

"We just have to find space in the calendar when an event is not going on," he said. "It should be completed by the time 'Lion King' is here in June. The audience isn't necessarily going to notice, but for us, it's really a big deal."

Sara Plummer 918-581-8465

sara.plummer@tulsaworld.com SUBHEAD: The PAC worked with a Tulsa-area company to design the dimmable bulbs.

Original Print Headline: Tulsa PAC pioneers LED theater lighting

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