For 16 months and counting, all of the lights at Massachusetts’ Minnechaug Regional High School have been on around the clock, costing thousands of dollars of each month in electricity usage. Why? Because nobody can turn them off due to a software failure in the computer-operated “green lighting system.”
In August 2021, “the lighting system went into default,” said Aaron Osborne, assistant superintendent of finance at the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District. “And the default position for the lighting system is for the lights to be on.”
From NBC News:
Osborne said they immediately reached out to the original installer of the system only to discover that the company had changed hands several times since the high school was built. When they finally tracked down the current owner of the company, Reflex Lighting, several more weeks went by before the company was able to find somebody familiar with the high school’s lighting system, he said[…]
“After many weeks of effort, we were provided a rough estimate in excess of $1.2 Million to comparably replace the entire system,” Osborne and [schools superintendent John] Provost wrote in an Aug. 26, 2022, response.
That estimate was from Reflex Lighting, Osborne told NBC News.
But with the pandemic raging, the contractor would not have been able to start doing the job until the following summer, Osborne said.
So Osborne and Provost, in their letter to town leaders, wrote that they hired a software consultant to see if it would be possible to “patch the system” to override the default system. And when that proved unworkable, they explored the possibility of having simple timers installed or even an on/off switch.
“This was eventually deemed not possible and the district moved on to looking at physical solutions that would retain some of the energy-saving intent of the original lighting management system,” Osborne and Provost wrote in their response.
So they went back to Reflex Lighting whose engineers devised a “piecemeal” method to fix the issue with new hardware, including a server and control boards. Since then, scheduling issues and delays in receiving the parts mean that, yep, the lights remain on.