Seattle Testing LED Streetlights

03/06/2012 |

Seattle Testing LED Streetlights

Is solid-state lighting LED the future for street lighting?  If so, the future is now.  The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) and the City of Seattle will take a look at solid-state street lighting in the Pacific Northwest when they collaborate on a three-night streetlight test in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood March 6 - 8.

The study is designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of solid-state lighting (SSL) using LEDs. NEEA, working with Seattle City Light and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), will test the theory that the broad spectrum of light from SSL products will let municipalities and utilities dim streetlights to lower levels, saving significant energy while still making streets safer for drivers and pedestrians. Solid-state lighting enhances peripheral vision, depth of field and color representation.  

Results from the Seattle test will be combined with data from streetlight tests in other cities to create a regional design guide for Northwest municipalities – and municipalities across North and South America – looking to replace existing high-pressure sodium lights.

"These tests will illustrate how LED streetlights use far less energy while maintaining safety and better vision for Seattle residents," said Edward Smalley, director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Municipal Solid-State Street Lighting Consortium.

In general, LED streetlights use up to 50% less energy than traditional street lighting technologies. Seattle City Light has already installed 20,000 LED streetlights. They have reduced energy consumption by more than 40% compared to the high-pressure sodium lights they replaced. By adding control systems, these public lighting sources could save 25% more.

"We're excited to leverage NEEA's regional connections for these tests," Smalley said. "We believe this will encourage many other communities to join Seattle in adopting more energy-efficient lighting."

Currently, the Northwest has 1.7 million streetlights. Many of these fixtures are nearing their end of life, and are both energy inefficient and expensive to maintain. Municipalities and utilities are showing more interest in LEDs for streetlights to save costs and increase customer safety. Solid-state lighting using LEDs may prove to be an attractive option featuring significant energy savings.

According to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's 6th Power Plan and independent analysis by NEEA, the Northwest has the potential to save up to 115 average megawatts (aMW) each year by adopting solid-state LED streetlight technology. This is the equivalent to powering 87,750 homes per year—greater than the current number of households in Tacoma, Wash.

"The Seattle LED streetlight tests will guide the national move to LED streetlight technology," said Dr. Ronald B. Gibbons, director, Center for Infrastructure Based Safety Systems, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). "We want to help cities and municipalities offer residents better safety with lower operating costs and less energy use."

For the actual test, a professional driver will pilot an instrumented car on blocked-off streets while passengers perform object detection tests at 35 mph along the route. Both traditional streetlights and LED lights will be used to compare how participants see the same objects under different lighting levels. Residents will also walk the course and rate the streetlights based on their perceptions of quality and safety.

The object detection tests will be combined with the pedestrians' input to create a recommended standard for LED street lighting across the United States and South America

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