This post was written by Keith Dawson for UBM Tech’s community Web site All LED Lighting, sponsored by Philips Lumileds. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the All LED Lighting site may go dark at any time. This material is Copyright 2013-2015 by UBM Americas.


Cities Flocking to Install LED Street Lights

Here are some cities across the US where LED street light replacement projects are being well received, and a few where they are not.

Do you remember the earliest days of public awareness of the web, before the dot-com boom really took off? Every business that launched a website put out a press release telling the world that they had done so. It even got to the point where businesses, late to the party and not wanting to be left out, issued press releases to declare that they planned to put up a website.

This is what has been happening with cities switching their street lighting to LEDs, especially while federal stimulus money existed to encourage such energy-saving projects. A writer complained in Forbes last January that he could "wallpaper [his] office with press releases from the California Energy Commission announcing LED street light conversions completed in cities across the state" over 2012.

Los Angeles, grandaddy of all LED conversions
The city completed phase 1 of its project to convert over 210,000 street lights to LEDs after four and a half years. Can you recall the state of commercial LED lighting four years ago? It took some serious foresight, on the part of the Clinton Climate Initiative and other boosters, to project an annual savings of millions of dollars in energy costs, based on 2009 technology.

The Daily Beast has before-and-after photos taken from the Hollywood hills showing how much the new LED street lighting reduces light pollution over Los Angeles.

In the course of getting to 141,089 new LED cobra-heads installed, the city tested 244 different LED units against the criteria that had been developed (CCT 4000K, CRI ≥ 65). Of these, 84 met the minimum requirements and 71 were tested on LA streets.

In the end, 21 fixtures were approved for use, including products from BetaLED's LEDway series (BetaLED was acquired by Cree as part of the Ruud acquisition), Cree's XSP series, Leotek's GC series, and Philips Hadco's RX series.

Some other cities
Baltimore began replacing 70,000 street lights with LEDs last summer. While the new fixtures place light more precisely on roadways, reducing light pollution, some people complained about that very fact: The old sodium-vapor lights spilled out in all directions, illuminating sidewalks more fully.

Oakland, CA has begun installing 30,000 LED lights. While not in the earliest vanguard of energy-saving cities, Oakland notes that only 5 percent of municipalities nationwide have moved to LED street lighting thus far.

Richmond, CA has issued a request for quotations for 6,000 replacement lights; the RFQ specifies Cree (formerly BetaLED) fixtures.

This piece in Forbes lists 10 California cities that had conversion projects completed as of January last year. A reader's comment notes that Livermore, home of LED chip maker Bridgelux, had recently carried out an LED conversion in cooperation with that company.

Unhappiness with LEDs
Most of the complaints enumerated below boil down to the new LEDs being too bright and too high in color temperature, and residents not being consulted before the new lights were installed. These are easy complaints to avoid if an LED conversion project is planned properly.

In Vancouver, BC, Canada, people living in neighborhoods where new 4000K lights were installed are far from happy. "The street resembles a soccer field or a mall parking lot or a film set," one said. Residents are complaining that their sleep is being disrupted by the overly bright, overly cool light. Some residents cited the study by CMU's Remaking Cities Institute, which concluded that 3500K is the maximum CCT for urban lighting if a goal is to preserve human and animal health.

In Chiswick, England, a London suburb inside the M25 ring, residents are "furious" about LEDs installed on tall poles in the conservation area surrounding the historic Chiswick House. The lights are too bright, the residents complain, keeping them up at night. They worry that the tall lamp poles will require cutting back some of the trees in the conservation area.

In Fairfax County, VA, residents of several towns that saw LED street lights installed have voiced a variety of complaints. "The lighting is too bright; it has a harsh, cold, white hue (described by some as what you'd expect in prison); and it overpowers curtains and drapes, forcing its way, unwanted, into bedrooms and other interior rooms," reports.

Everyone appreciates the cost savings LEDs can bring to municipal budgets. It seems that the secrets to pulling off a conversion project with good community support are: pay attention to the science and to the measurement, and make sure to keep all the affected citizens in the loop.

— Keith Dawson Circle me on Google+ Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn page, Editor-in-Chief, All LED Lighting