Negotiating for the future: a $368,000 utility incentive helps Dean College overhaul its campus lighting

In Franklin, Mass., Dean College cements its 19th-century legacy with sustainable 21st-century technology. A $368,000 National Grid utility incentive and zero-interest payment plan GreenerU negotiated paved the way. It’s a campus-wide lighting redesign that pays for itself.


When Dr. Oliver Dean founded his eponymous college in 1865, he merged two quintessentially Massachusetts stories: textiles and education.

The birth of Dean College was the result of Dr. Dean’s investment in the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, in 1825, which became the largest cotton textile plant in the world—which sold fabrics to, among others, Levi Strauss, who bought wholesale cloth to make a new style of denim work pants.

A parallel development was happening across Massachusetts, which became the first state to pass a comprehensive education law requiring that teachers be college-educated.

But while the commonwealth’s textile boom did not survive, Massachusetts’s education grew and thrived, a legacy reflected in the commonwealth’s 114 colleges and universities.

19th-century technology with a 21st-century upgrade

More than 150 years later, and Dean College is stepping forward with a new legacy: light bulbs.

This may not sound revolutionary. After all, the first practical incandescent bulb was patented in 1879, not long after Dean College was founded.

But in fact, the now highly affordable and widely available progression of LED technology has the ability not only to dramatically lower campus operating costs, but improve learning conditions and reduce energy use as well.

In 2019, Dean College signed an agreement with GreenerU to perform a retrofit of all fluorescent, incandescent, and HID lighting systems on campus, inside and out. This was possible thanks to a $368,000 incentive from National Grid, plus an “on bill” repayment plan that GreenerU negotiated—basically a 0% interest loan repaid over three years. Given the energy savings that result from more efficient lighting, the project will pay for itself.

Better lighting means better learning

What’s more, Dean’s entire campus gets a luminary makeover. The project has been underway since the spring and has included more than 6,000 new LED fixtures, retrofit kits, and lamps, plus 1,700 lighting controls throughout campus—controls that include switch- or ceiling-mounted occupancy sensors and fixture-mounted controls.

All of this is geared toward “brighter lighting, set to promote productivity, alertness, and concentration,” Dean’s associate vice president of capital planning and facilities Brian Kelly told Wicked Local Franklin. That means Dean’s lighting environment will be maximized to help students better focus on their studies.

Altogether, the lighting overhaul at Dean College will save the campus more than 1 million kWh of electricity every year—a carbon footprint reduction equivalent to the emissions from burning 79,000 gallons of gas. What’s more, the retrofit will save the College more than $170,000 in energy and maintenance costs each year.

As with blue jeans, this updated 19th-century technology is key to ensuring the longevity of Dr. Oliver Dean’s educational legacy.

Great institutions are meant to last. Dean College’s future—and campus—is bright.

Could your school use a lighting overhaul? GreenerU can help you from concept to design to installation, including controls—plus help you negotiate maximum incentives from your utility provider. Contact us at 781-209-5760 today or connect with us to light this fire. Or bulb.

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