Skagit Hydroelectric Lighting Project Uses LEDs to Preserve History
SEATTLE – Seattle City Light’s restoration of the historic Ladder Creek Falls light show at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project won a Paul Waterbury Award for Outdoor Lighting Design Excellence from the Illuminating Engineering Society.
“The lights at Ladder Creek Falls were installed by City Light’s second superintendent, J.D. Ross, in the 1920s and 30s as part of his efforts to win public appreciation for the municipally owned Skagit Hydroelectric Project,” said Jorge Carrasco, the utility’s current superintendent. “Ross was intrigued by the possibilities for using light in artistic ways and wanted to create what he called, ‘a paradise of color in the wilderness.’”
“By using energy efficient technology, the restoration project preserves a valued legacy for City Light and the award recognizes that innovation successfully restored and enhanced J.D.’s original vision,” Carrasco said. “I know he would be thrilled to see so many people enjoying the Ladder Creek Falls light show more than 80 years after he installed the first lights.”
Ladder Creek Falls was selected from 386 projects around the world that were submitted for consideration in the Illuminating Engineering Society’s annual contest. Other award winners included The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation site in Seattle and projects in Lebanon, Japan and Qatar. Read more about all the award winners at Illumination Awards 2012.
For early visitors, the Ladder Creek Falls lights created a fairyland symbolizing the new wonders of electricity. Over the years, the original, historic system slowly fell into disrepair. By the end of 2004, the lighting system was completely dark.
In 2008, City Light started working to restore the lights. The design team of Berger Partnership and Candela was hired to design the new system to recreate the historic appearance while meeting current electrical and safety codes.
Candela completed the designs in 2009. Valley Electric was awarded the $900,000 contract and started construction in 2010. The labor-intensive work, which also included rebuilding concrete stairs and installing a seating area, handrails, guard rails, signs, and benches, is now complete is a part of the utility’s dam operating license requirement to preserve historic attributes and provide recreational opportunities. Visitors will be able to enjoy a spectacle of changing lights within the glacier fed falls nightly from dark until midnight.
About 30 programmable, energy efficient LED light fixtures were installed to replace the original 1,000 watt spotlights. The new fixtures can be individually programmed to any color for any length of time, proving an almost unlimited number of options. The new lights use about 90 percent less electricity than the original fixtures and will produce energy savings and maintenance savings for the utility.
The light show is programmed to last 15 minutes and repeats throughout the evening. City Light anticipates developing additional programs for special events. You can watch a video about the project at Ladder Creek Falls Light Show .
Ladder Creek Falls is a part of the Newhalem Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 million Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.