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LEDs Trip the Light Fantastic

Photonics Spectra
Oct 2008
New York City’s department of design and construction recently entered the second phase of the City Lights Design Competition, an international contest to design new streetlights, sidewalks and parks throughout the city’s five boroughs. The winning proposal, developed by Office for Visual Interaction Inc. (OVI), an architectural lighting design company based in the city, will use LEDs produced by Lighting Science Group Corp. (LSG), also in New York. The plan will mount LED modules into a 6- to 8-ft-long arm that extends from a newly designed lamp-post.

NYC_Fig1.jpg

Imagine the white glow of 300,000 New York City streetlamps, all lit with LEDs. That’s not about to happen instantly, but LED-based lamp designs soon will be tested on the streets of the Big Apple.


According to Zach Gibler, chief business development officer at LSG, the modules can be designed for specific lighting tasks, such as illuminating the width of a street, lighting a sidewalk or providing down light in specific areas. The team of OVI and LSG is now working on six prototypes to be tested in the city. The best one will be entered into the city’s catalog of streetlamps.

Replacing a commonly used 150-W high-pressure sodium streetlamp will take about 120 die, notes Fred Maxik, chief scientific officer for LSG. Energy conservation wasn’t written into the stated goals of the competition, which launched in 2004. Yet now that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced a long-term plan to cut municipal energy consumption, the estimated savings of 25 to 30 percent per streetlamp must make LED technology look mighty appealing. And that’s not even factoring in the reduction in maintenance costs from the bulbs’ longer lifetimes.

But what about solar? If the city really wanted to green up, one would think that the winning design would include a small solar panel at the top of every streetlamp. “That’s a tough one,” contends Maxik, citing as the leading challenge the lack of sunlight in the inner city, coupled with energy storage. On the other hand, he surmised, “A grid-connected system just might be able to send enough power to the grid to offset its use.” The competition is expected to wrap up in the fall of 2009.


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