By Patricia Daukantas
U.S. cities are beginning to use solid-state lighting (SSL) to save on electricity and maintenance costs, but they have much further to go, lighting experts told a congressional audience yesterday.
OSA and the U.S. House of Representatives’ Research & Development Caucus organized the Washington, D.C., briefing, at which several lighting experts showed off recent local-government success stories and discussed how to gain more acceptance for the technology.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has studied the history of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) to find out what went wrong in the marketplace with their initial introduction, said James Brodrick, manager of the DOE’s SSL program. He recounted the frequent complaints about the old-style CFLs from 20 years ago (they buzzed, they took a while to light up, they made people look like corpses).
More than 200 manufacturers have signed up for the Lighting Facts program, which is supposed to provide consumers with consistent energy-consumption information for bulbs and bulb replacements according to Brodrick. He also showed off the 90-lumens-per-watt entry for the L Prize technology competition:
LED performance is getting close to the “holy grail” of more than 120 lumens per watt, which would make outdoor and indoor lighting much more attractive, said Mathew Sommers of General Electric Co.’s Lumination division. He reviewed a number of the talking points used to pitch SSL technology to business and municipal customers: glare reduction in product display cases, more uniform coverage of outdoor sites, substantial reduction in maintenance costs (such as bulb replacement) and – oh, yeah – huge savings on energy costs over incandescent lights.
Although a representative from the government of Ann Arbor, Mich. (U.S.A.), couldn’t get to Capitol Hill to talk about that city’s LED lighting program, a representative of Cree Inc. (Durham, N.C., U.S.A.) reviewed several public-sector SSL projects: the parking garage at the Raleigh Convention Center, a street in Chapel Hill, N.C., and a dormitory at North Carolina State University. Deb Lovig, Cree’s LED programs evangelist, passed around the room an LED replacement for the recessed indoor “can light,” which usually takes an incandescent bulb.
Consumers are less interested than governments and other large organizations in return-on-investment arguments, noted OPN contributing editor Alexandre Fong, who moderated the discussion. Also, the U.S. lighting infrastructure, heavily based on screw-in lights that run on alternating rather than direct current, isn’t yet right for LEDs.
“There are four billion sockets out there,” Sommers said. “That’s a lot of sockets to put bulbs in.”
Indeed, bulb manufacturers will probably develop lots of interesting solid-state bulb replacements to fit into those sockets – and to meet the U.S. lighting-energy standards that go into effect in 2012 and become much more stringent in 2020.
A future issue of OPN will include much more coverage of the policy issues surrounding solid-state lighting development and usage. Stay tuned!