Bringing down the costs of LED street lights

With municipal budgets reeling due to the recession, there has been a lot of activity recently from companies in the LED street light segment about reducing the price of replacement LED street lights.  It appears that LED lighting companies Cree and Bridgelux are working on cutting the price of street lighting in half. A recent Wall Street Journal article by Kate Linebaugh focused on how Cree has cut the price of their LED street lights in half.  Cree’s LED street lights now cost under $200 when bought in volume according to the article.  These put the price of LED street lights on par with the costs of traditional high-pressure sodium vacuum technology when you account for maintenance and energy costs.  How did Cree do it?  They are able to produce a more efficient LED chip so that they can use fewer LEDs in each street light unit.

At the same time, Bridgelux, an LED lighting start up,  is partnering with Chevron Energy Solutions, an energy services arm of Chevron that serves municipalities in the US, to build and install LED modules that can be retrofitted into street lights.  According to a story in Greentechenterprise.com, the two companies hope to bring a solution that’s 30 percent to 50 percent cheaper than today’s options.  Bridgelux’s new modules are designed to be installed in the familiar “cobra head” streetlight fixtures that make up about 65 percent of the country’s 35 million or so streetlights.

The hurdle to municipalities going green with LED street lights is the high initial cost of the LED replacement bulb according to the Wall Street Journal article.  Yet, it is the maintenance cost that hits later for the traditional sodium vacuum street lights. While traditional street lights have a replacement cost of $10, it costs far more to replace one when you take personnel and a truck roll into consideration.  It takes two workers and a bucket truck to replace one street light light bulb at a cost of roughly $200.  My neighbor was awakened to a utility worker loudly replacing a street light bulb at 2:30 am last week.  Although, a single man in a bucket truck made the light bulb switch (traditional kind, not LED).  LED street lights would also mean less frequent disruption for my neighbor in the middle of the night.

For Further Reading:

Wall Street Journal, LED Streetlight’s Price Cut in Half, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304587704577333942881985170.html

Greentechmedia.com, Bridgelux Goes Big In LED Streetlights http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/bridgelux-goes-big-into-led-streetlights/

DOE Municipal Solid-State Street Lighting Consortium, http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/ssl/consortium.html

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About Beth

It seems like LEDs are in everything these days – backlighting everything from your mobile phone, Apple iPad and flat screen HDTV to traffic lights, light bulbs and even the kitchen sink. But, making LEDs is a complex process that begins with the creation of sapphire. Not the pretty blue gemstone, but large commercial crystals that can weigh as much as 400 lbs. Once these large sapphire crystals are grown into boules and cooled, they’re cut into cores, cut further into flat circular wafers, polished and then used to grow LEDs. About 85 percent of HB-LEDs (high brightness) are grown on sapphire. There’s not that much information out there about the process. This blog is meant to shed some light (excuse the pun) on sapphire, LEDs and the industry that is devoted to making our lives just a little brighter. In the months ahead, we’ll tackle some topics that will help you understand a little more about sapphire and LED industry. Here’s a sample of what we’ll cover in the coming months: • Growing sapphire • For a wafer, size matters • Quality - When sapphire wafers go bad • LED light bulbs • Market & myths • Interviews with industry shining stars • Reports from industry events • Current events in perspective Please join us each week to learn more about sapphire and the LED market. We look forward to seeing you.

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