The Bright Side of LEDs for Illuminating Cities

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Envari streetlighting project

The Bright Side of LEDs for Illuminating Cities

Canada’s capital city has been a global leader in streetlighting since the very beginning. In 1885, Ottawa was one of the first cities in the world to light all of its streets with electricity. Before that, streets were illuminated by oil-fueled lampposts that needed to be lit every night by streetlighters traveling on foot or horseback. Not surprisingly, electric streetlight fixtures soon became the standard in cities across the world.


The Evolution of Smarter Streetlighting


While the electric streetlight was a huge leap forward for city infrastructure it would not see another technological advancement for 100+ years. High intensity discharge (HID) lamps, most commonly high pressure sodium and metal halide lights, have been the norm for city streetlights. These options made sense when comparing them against incandescent bulbs, but since the mass adoption and competitive costs of light emitting diode (LED) technology, we’ve learned we can take another leap to greatly improve at a reduced cost.


To truly appreciate the benefits of LEDs for streetlighting, it’s important to understand the shortcomings of HIDs. Inefficiency is the first strike on these lighting types. As they convert energy into light, 15 per cent of emissions are lost due to energy dissipation and heat loss. The second strike for these lights is that they have a relatively short lifespan, lasting an average of 24,000 hours. This leads to increased maintenance cost for ongoing replacements – which becomes significant when dealing with tens of thousands of streetlights. The third noteworthy strike is their limited colour temperature and colour rendering index (CRI). They are known for having some of the worst CRI values on the market, greatly inhibiting colour vision at night when used for streetlighting.


What LEDs Have to Offer


LEDs are exceptionally energy efficient. Because they can last 100,000 hours or more and require very little upkeep, maintenance costs are significantly less. LEDs are also available in a wide variety of intensities, colour rendering and colour temperature options, giving municipalities flexibility depending on their application. For streetlights, this can mean cooler temperature lighting on commercial roadways and warmer temperature lighting on residential streets. One of the most exciting parts is that smart lighting controls can be integrated into LED lights to allow for programming (i.e. motion sensors, dimming at specific times of day).


The Future is Bright for Ottawa


Ottawa recently began a streetlight conversion project in 2016 – aiming to convert 58,000 streetlights to dimmable LEDs by July 2020. Envari has been the project lead, lighting the way from the design phase all the way through to implementation [click here to read the case study].


The data is already showing over 60 per cent in energy savings, which will generate annual savings of approximately $4 million. Maintenance costs for streetlights will also drop by 50 per cent, adding up to an additional $2 million in savings each year for the city. Did I mention that the project is also ahead of schedule?


In my view, no article would be complete without some form of reference to pop culture, comic books, or fiction/fantasy.  So, in the spirit of keeping the memory of Stan Lee alive and his ‘light’ (flame) shining bright, I’d like to share one of his favourite words: Excelsior. It’s an old word that means ‘upward and onward to greater glory.’  The intent as I interpret it is to keep moving forward – this is something that I am seeing in the world of lighting and I look forward to all that is unfolding in this industry.


To learn more about LEDs and how they relate to this unique streetlighting project, tune into Hydro Ottawa’s latest podcast where Rob Kent, Envari’s lead engineer on the Ottawa streetlighting conversion project, shares his expert knowledge on the on the “Benefits of Using LED Lights”.


This article first appeared on Adnan Khokhar’s LinkedIn Pulse [click here to read].


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