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  • Navy Adopts LEDs on Ships and Submarines
Mar 2011
ARLINGTON, Va., March 7, 2011 — A pilot program testing LED fixtures aboard several Navy ships and submarines is under way.

The Solid State Lighting (SSL) project, created by the Office of Naval Research under its TechSolutions program, is one of several programs created using recommendations and suggestions from Navy and Marine Corps personnel.

The SSL project introduced the energy-saving, nonhazardous LED fixtures on the USS New Hampshire in late January. In July, installation also is scheduled on the USS New Mexico. These submarines will serve as pilot platforms to enable the Navy to measure savings achieved from SSL.

Solid State Lighting LED fixtures may one day replace existing hazardous fluorescent lights aboard submarines and surface ships. (Image: US Navy)

The new lighting fixtures also are being installed for testing on three surface ships: the USS Pearl Harbor, USS Preble and USS Chafee.

Although the SSL is in its early stages, the LED fixtures may one day replace existing hazardous fluorescent lights aboard submarines and surface ships. LEDs can reduce fuel use and maintenance requirements fleetwide and increase fleet readiness.

"LED lights are an immediate way to improve efficiency across the fleet," said Roger Buelow, chief technology officer at Energy Focus Inc. and principal investigator for the SSL project.

"Essentially, [SSL] lowers our workload and the amount of onboard spares that we are going to have to take on major deployments," said Chief Petty Officer Scott Brand, an electrician's mate on the USS New Hampshire. "That will significantly decrease the amount of space we have to consume with lightbulbs."

LEDs contain no hazardous materials, unlike fluorescents, which must be stored onboard until warfighters can perform expensive and intensive disposal procedures.

"The submarine community is pushing to adopt LEDs because fluorescents contain mercury," said Edward Markey, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Philadelphia Electrical Powergroup and TechSolutions technical point of contact on the SSL project. "Hazardous materials require special disposal procedures, costing the Navy time, money and space."

TechSolutions worked with Energy Focus to produce patented LED fixtures that are direct replacements for fluorescents. The replacements produce the same light output, but use half the power.

"As an example, the fluorescent version of the Berth light found in every sailor's sleeping area runs at over 10 W and is a legendary maintenance headache due to starter and lamp failures," Buelow said. "Because of TechSolutions, the fleet now has a qualified LED version that runs at 5 W, delivers the same light output and will last for a decade without maintenance."

Although Energy Focus fixtures have had a good track record on Navy ships, TechSolutions' products were the first to be fully qualified by the service. Those components met the most stringent electromagnetic interference standards, requiring innovative manufacturing methods. "Making any electrical appliance tough enough to pass Navy shock and vibration tests is a challenge," Buelow said.

The request to replace noisy fluorescent bunk lights with LEDs was submitted by a sonar technician at Commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet, Norfolk, Va. After realizing the potential, TechSolutions and NAVSEA expanded the effort beyond bunk lights to include all the T5 8-W fluorescent fixtures in the forward habitability portion of the submarine.

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