Coming to a City Near You — LED Street Lights

From San Jose to Virginia Beach, antiquated street lamps are being upgraded to the latest and most efficient lighting technology — LEDs.

As major cities nationwide begin reaping the many benefits of converting to LED street lights, so too may your city.

Street LightPhoto Credit:

Energy savings 

As anyone who has been shopping for LEDs can attest, they generally have a higher initial purchase cost compared with traditional light bulbs. The same goes for the price of an LED streetlight over conventional sodium light. However, cities are making an up-front investment in LEDs in order to experience long-term benefits of the technology.

A two-and-a-half-year global pilot of LED street lamps across major cities found that LED street lighting can generate energy savings as high as 85 percent. The pilot program also revealed that in the United States alone, cutting the energy used by lighting by 40 percent would save $53 billion in annual energy costs.

But LEDs don’t just cut costs — they also reduce the carbon footprint in the surrounding area.

According to CCTV America, scientists estimate that 20 percent of the entire world’s energy is spent on light, 6 percent of which is accounted for by street lamps. The potential to save is enormous when you consider that going from a traditional lighting system to an LED lighting system can result in energy savings of up to 50 percent.

 Clearer skies and safer streets

Gone are the days of dim lamps that cast a yellowish-orange glow onto our roads, and in are the new, flat boxy fixtures that illuminate streets with white light.

Not only do LED lights give a more neutral-colored illumination to streets, but they can even take away the cloudy glow of city lights, bringing clarity to the surrounding architecture that makes each city unique.

The view from the freeway of New Haven, Connecticut, for example, is significantly more visible after the LED street light program was implemented.


Photo Credit: inspiredLED

In addition to enhancing the scenery, LEDs are helping to make streets safer.

New smart LED lighting systems that are being implemented in parks and cities with high crime rates, such as Coolidge Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee, have the ability to turn on automatically at dusk and off at dawn. What’s more, each light can be controlled remotely by police officers to better illuminate a crime scene or trail as a suspect is fleeing. 

Beyond the U.S. borders 

The development and adoption of LED street lamps is not just an emerging trend in the United States — it’s happening globally.

The Danish Outdoor Lighting Lab recently set up examples of the most advanced street lighting systems in the world at a small industrial park on the outskirts of Copenhagen so that city planners from around the world could choose the best performers for their municipalities.

All of the examples in the park were controlled by Wi-Fi management systems, and most contained motion sensors and LEDs. The Danish Outdoor Lighting Lab hopes to integrate cutting-edge smart lamps around the world, including light that is triggered by a car moving past a lamp post.

When cities incorporate intelligent lighting systems that manage each LED light post, there can be upwards of a 75 to 80 percent energy savings over traditional lighting systems, according to the chief technical officer at the Danish Lighting Lab, Kim Brostrom.

Recent breakthroughs in LED technology are leading to lower prices and increased availability. This is the spark that will bring LEDs to people and cities all over the world. As the new year begins, LED street lights are certainly a technology to watch in 2015.

Do You LED? – NECA, IBEW and DOE Education Efforts on LED Lighting

Electrical contractors are often on the front lines in helping their customers select electrical fixtures for their homes and businesses.  Their customers look to them for advice and experience when making important decisions about the lighting fixtures from lighting aesthetics and placement to maintenance and energy costs over the fixture’s lifetime.

The National Electrical Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have a new series of videos on their web site specifically developed to help electrical contractors get ready for the opportunities and challenges of LED lighting. The first video is a great introduction to LED technology and its benefits.  The US Department of Energy is using the video series to help explain LED lighting to consumers on their website too.

Part 1 of the three part series introduces LEDs and their potential benefits. The segment features an interview with DOE Lighting Program Manager, Dr. James Brodrick that explains some of the advantages of LED lighting and where to look for information that can help you learn more.

According to Brodrick, by 2030, LED products will reduce lighting consumption by 46%. That means a savings of $30 billion in savings that would go back to the consumer and business.  LED products bring efficiency, durability, directional light and dimming capabilities.  He does claim that CFLs won’t go away.  According to Brodrick, they’re not quite as efficient as LEDs, but LEDs will become more efficient than CFLs could ever be. Brodrick also points out that we’ve never completely displaced a light source given that candles still have a place.

“At this point in time education is really important,” says Brodrick in the video.  “There are lots of new concepts and the lighting operates differently.  You need to get a hold of information.” He admits that there are some good products and some not so good ones.  The DOE has put together some programs to help contractors and consumers make sense of LED lighting.

The CALiPer program (DOE’s Commercially Available LED Product Evaluation and Reporting (CALiPER) program) is like the department’s Good Housekeeping seal. The program supports testing of a wide array of SSL products available for general illumination. DOE allows its test results to be distributed in the public interest for non-commercial, educational purposes only.

The video also references the GATEWAY program.  DOE GATEWAY demonstrations showcase high-performance LED products for general illumination in a variety of commercial and residential applications.  Demonstration results provide real-world experience and data on state-of-the-art solid-state lighting (SSL) product performance and cost effectiveness.

For Additional Reading

DOE, Solid State Lighting:

The CALiPER program:  DOE Commercially Available LED Product Evaluation and Reporting (CALiPER) program)

GATEWAY Demonstrations: