Hey there, LED lamp-post, whatcha saving?

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

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.