By Martin Vedris

SYDNEY: Sharp Corporation Australia will be pulling the plug on 28 March 2009. A sign of the times, the lights turning off on the company’s eco-friendly illuminated advertising billboard in North Sydney will symbolise the company’s intentions.

It’s not what you might think though. Sharp Corporation of Australia will celebrate Earth Hour by shutting down its North Sydney billboard for one hour from 8.30 pm on Saturday 28 March.

Earth Hour is a global initiative to create awareness about the effect of global warming. This year the event’s organisers report that with two weeks to go, 1,189 cities and towns across 80 countries have committed to turning off their lights for a one hour from 8:30 PM, their local time, on Saturday 28 March 2009.

As always, positioned eastward as it is, New Zealand will lead the world when it shuts down first on the Chatham Islands, a small archipelago off the east coast. Then the event will sweep across the globe. Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu backs it, Paris will support it, Sweden will ring church bells to signal the start of the event.

Earth Hour has become a global phenomenon and you saw it here first — it all started in Sydney, Australia in 2007.

Sharp Corporation is proud to be turning off the lights on its billboard for one hour. Situated on top of a building in Lavender Street, the Sharp sign is 18 metres long and three metres high and is illuminated by energy efficient LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology. According to Sharp, LED uses 65 per cent less energy than neon signs, is silent, requires less maintenance, and does not require neon gas disposal when it is replaced.

Sharp Corporation Australia’s deputy managing director, Denis Kerr, said the LED sign is example of Sharp’s commitment to its ‘Super Green Strategy’, which aims to eliminate energy waste through its products, technologies and factories.

Sharp’s LCD factory in Kameyama, Japan, reportedly generates one third of the total electricity it uses in the factory. And the company reports that although vast quantities of water are required in producing LCD panels, 100 per cent of the water expelled by the factory is recycled.

“Earth Hour is a great initiative and it is pleasing to see world cities following Sydney’s stance against global warming,” said Kerr.

“All of these energy reducing and eco- friendly attributes reflect Sharp’s global positioning of reducing greenhouse gases and working towards more environmentally friendly outcomes.”