As millions of people around the world observed Earth Hour on Saturday, March 27, a cement plant tucked against the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwestern Virginia turned off the lighting array on its 400-foot pre-heater tower — and has no intention of turning them back on.
Before plant managers at the Roanoke Cement Company in Troutville, Virginia, made the decision to switch off the lights almost 100 lights were visible from up to 13 miles away along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, a road that traverses high on the wooded slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The pre-heater tower now has just two prominent red lights to alert small aircrafts flying in the area. “We knew we would make the neighbors happy if we’d just shut the lights off at night,” said Kevin Baird, Plant Manager for Roanoke Cement Company. Baird said he follows the guiding energy principle that “the easiest way to save power is to not use it.”
“In times of economic downturn,” said Baird, “we must look to the low-hanging fruit, like automation and optimization, for efficiencies.”
This is not the first time Roanoke Cement Company has been recognized for its environmental performance. RCC has also been awarded the overall environmental excellence award by the Portland Cement Association for its work in the community.
A drop of cement in the bucket?
Cement production accounts for as much as 5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Even though there have been some industry improvements in emissions — and one Canadian cement plant is capturing CO2 in algae — progress on sequestering large volumes of CO2 has been slow to get going.
Now, in the larger scale of things, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the new lighting arrangement at Troutville will pale in comparison to the total GHGs produced in the process of cement manufacturing at the plant.
But throughout Botetourt County, where RCC’s plant is located, residents will also benefit from a reduction in a different kind of pollution — the glow emanating from the Troutville plant no longer exists, making the night sky darker and the stars shine a bit brighter.
Article by Timothy B. Hurst appearing courtesy Celsias