The Las Vegas Strip is reputed to be the brightest spot on Earth when viewed from hundreds of miles above in outer space. Clearly, it takes a lot of energy to power all of that neon.
It is difficult to verify statistics about just how much power is being consumed on The Strip each day. A Forbes.com article titled “Lighting Las Vegas” was based on an interview with former Nevada Energy insider, Walter Higgins, who said that “the city demands 5,600 megawatts on a summer day. By 2015, that’s expected to hit 8,000.”
At any rate, it’s a lot of energy. Believe it or not, neon is a fairly energy-efficient form of lighting. In his article, “Dispelling the ‘Inefficient Neon’ Myth,” Dr. Bernard Diffin explains that while LED-based products are certainly most energy-efficient, “in most instances, neon-based illumination systems still provide superior performance in terms of ‘light out for dollar in.’” In a city renowned for its neon skyline, brightness and color variation are critical to keeping the interest of world travelers.
Las Vegas, the city of innovation, has thought of an interesting way to offset some of the carbon footprint imposed by its neon heritage. In 1996, the Neon Museum was started as a non-profit organization whose mission it is to collect and exhibit neon signs, preserving them as classic art forms, thus keeping the hulking relics out of landfills. The Museum has a collection of over 150 signs that tell the story of Las Vegas’ evolution from the 1930s onward.
The Museum is now in the process of rehabbing the La Concha Motel lobby. This stylized conch shell structure was designed by African-American architect Paul Revere Williams in 1961 for the Doumani family. They had asked Williams to design something distinctive that would catch the attention of visitors driving into town from Los Angeles. The building was scheduled for demolition in 2005, when the Doumani family promised it to the Neon Museum to house its visitor’s center. It is now on the City of Las Vegas Historic Register.
The Museum has embarked on several methods for preserving Las Vegas’ historic signage. One is the Neon Signs Project.
“The Neon Signs Project partners with the Neon Museum and the City of Las Vegas to install restored signs from the Museum collection along Las Vegas Blvd, illuminating downtown Las Vegas. In 2009, the stretch of Las Vegas Blvd between Sahara Ave. and Washington Ave. was designated a National Scenic Byway…The first sign was the Hacienda Horse and Rider, installed…at Freemont Street. Binion’s Horseshoe, the Bow & Arrow Motel, and the Silver Slipper were erected in 2009.” www.neonmuseum.org
The Freemont Street Gallery offers visitors a chance to embark on a self-guided walking tour and see nine refurbished signs under the Fremont Street Experience canopy.
The Neon Boneyard is a collection of over 150 donated and rescued signs. This two-acre collection is unlighted, but available for tours and photo shoots by advance appointment, providing meeting planners with an affordable and educational tour option.
One cannot discuss Las Vegas’ historic neon signage without encountering the name of Young Electric Sign Company. YESCO was the designer of many of the works of art being so carefully preserved and remains one of the foremost crafters of Las Vegas’ character today. YESCO has been and remains a proponent of green business practices and incorporates more energy-efficient components into its lighting systems as technology advances. Visit their website at www.yesco.com to learn more about their significant contributions to Las Vegas’ distinctive image, both past and present.
Here in Las Vegas, visitors will find that even neon is green.
Green tip for April:
Earth Day is celebrated around the world on April 22. While the holiday was originally observed on March 21 to coincide with the first day of spring, it now fittingly coincides with the birthday of famed environmentalist, John Muir (April 21). Muir said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” In that brief statement, he captured the importance of measuring our individual actions against the greater good of our planet. Visit www.sierraclub.org to learn more about Muir and his contributions to our environment.