Hey there, LED lamp-post, whatcha saving?

Hey there, LED lamp-post, whatcha saving?

Summary: Shipments of LED street lighting will accelerate over the next seven years, but the motivation for installation isn't just reduced energy consumption.

TOPICS: Emerging Tech

One of the streetlights on my dead-end road is out again, an occurrence that seems to happen at least twice annually and that it will take my town at least a month (if not more) to address.

I haven't heard or read anything locally about planned investments in technologies that will help alleviate this situation, even though it appears that many other municipalities around the world are becoming more interested in advanced street lighting installations, especially those that use LED technology.

According to new projections from Pike Research, shipments of LED street lights will grow to more than 17 million units annually by 2020 – compared with just 3 million this year.

One of the biggest motivators for these projects, aside from the anticipated energy savings, is the potential for reduced maintenance costs, according to the Pike report.

“LED lamps allow for better dimming control than standard street lights, and their electronics allow for easy integration of control nodes,” said Pike senior research analyst Eric Woods. “Rising sales of LED lamps will therefore drive up the adoption of smart street lighting systems, which promise to bring new levels of control and efficiency to the illumination of our cities, communities, highways, and public spaces.”

The trouble is, though, that LED lights still cost roughly four times the sodium-derived technology that most lamp-posts use today, making the upfront investment tough to justifiy for towns that aren't flush with money.

That's why you have been hearing about all sorts of pilot projects to build the return on investment (ROI) case – like the ones being spearheaded by Philips that were the subject of this infographic I wrote about in June. (And YES, the light that is out now is a different one from the one that was out back when I wrote that post.)

Energy savings actually may not be the thing that gets cities and towns to take the LED leap – the better arguments might surround maintenance and public safety, according to the Pike report.

In any event, October actually marks the 50th anniversary of LEDs, which were the result of groundbreaking experiments by General Electric scientist Nick Holonyak.

GE produced the informative video interview (below) with Holonyak about LED applications, which was posted on YouTube in September 2012. 

Topic: Emerging Tech

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  • led junk

    old tech lamps should last 10-15 yrs. now however, the old tech bulbs are from china and they dont last. here locally they have replaced the stop lights with leds and guess what , they all have a tetris effect with dead leds. i bet maintenance costs are going to skyrocket!
  • Baytown Texas has LED lights on some freeways!

    For some reason, visibility is not as good with them as the adjoining section of the freeway with the older lights.
    It may be due to the extremely white light output, similar to the dingy look from daylight white flourescent bulbs in some poor neighborhoods stores, combined with the glare that human eyes perceive from them.
  • What about snow?

    An interesting problem arose with LED traffic lights no one foresaw--incandescent lamps generate a lot more heat. When snow lands on them it melts. LEDs are so efficient the snow doesn't melt. The result was that anytime there was a fair amount of snow all the traffic lights were useless although they were working.

    Will the same apply to street lamps? I'm assuming if they're somewhat recessed it won't be a problem, but obviously I haven't tested anything and the shape of the overall lamp may assume a floodlight-style bulb.
  • The REAL savings

    The real savings is that these LED lights, unlike incandescent lights used in the past, do not attract flying insects. In my town, we have a stretch of road where they actually turn off the street lights due to the mayflies. So many get attracted to the incandescent lights and then die and land on the road that the road becomes hazardous to drive on. I've actually watched a semi truck and trailer jackknife at a stop light (speed limit is 25mph) because it could not stop due to the excessive amount of mayfly carcasses.
  • Maximum energy savings

    "One of the streetlights on my dead-end road is out again"
    Sounds like your town is saving the max amount of energy.
    Excellent tactic on their part.
  • LED street lighting cost is dropping

    Heather, you make some good points in your article. It made me pause and reflect on how far LED lighting has come in the last few years, particularly LED street lighting. You’re right on that in addition to energy savings, reduced maintenance costs are a big motivator for towns and cities looking to switch to LED street lights.

    I also think it’s important to point out that the cost of LED street lighting is dropping. In fact, a February 2012 report by the U.S. DOE says that the cost of LED street lighting has dropped 25 percent in the last year. Since the price is dropping, it’s important that cities considering street lights are calculating their savings using today’s currency. The U.S. DOE has made this easier for cities by creating a retrofit analysis tool that cities can use to estimate the cost and return on investment for lighting efficiency projects. The tool is available here: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/ssl/financial-tool.html

    LED street lighting isn’t just being adopted by cities flush with cash. Look at Los Angeles, CA, for example. Los Angeles has been one of the most progressive and aggressive cities in the country when it comes to adopting LED street lighting, having already installed more than 100,000 LED street lights. And yet the city faced a more than $200 million budget deficit this year. Investing in LED street lighting can help cities that want to save money in energy and maintenance costs, with L.A. being a great example. You can read more about what Los Angeles is doing with it’s LED street lighting program here: http://www.ci.la.ca.us/bsl/

    And at Cree, we’re constantly working on innovations in LED lighting to help speed up adoption. Earlier this year we announced the XSP Series LED Street Light, which was designed to speed payback to municipalities. You can read more about how we’re breaking down barriers for cities looking to adopt street lights here: http://www.cree.com/news-and-events/cree-news/press-releases/2012/april/120410-xsp-street-light

    Heather, I hope your town is able to repair that pesky street light in your neighborhood soon. If our latest LED street light was installed there, your town likely wouldn’t have to worry about replacing it for more than 100,000 hours. Perhaps you can share the DOE’s retrofit analysis tool with city hall when you call to report the street light. Maybe it would help bring LEDs to your neighborhood sooner than you imagine.

    Mike Malloy
    LED lighting project manager
    Cree, Inc.
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