LED Lighting, Smart Grid Tech Take Root in California

With some $4.5 billion in Federal grants spurring project development and investment, LED streetlights and smart grid technology are being combined and systems rolled out in a growing number of California cities.
Creator of the LonWorks open platform standard for smart grid and building/facilities energy management systems and products, San Jose-based Echelon Corp. is at the forefront of this wave of infrastructural change. The emerging market leader is involved in smart grid LED street lighting projects in Palo Alto, San Francisco, San Jose, as well as others in the US and abroad.

Lighting the Way
Touted as being good for 20 years, LED (light emitting diode) streetlights are said to be a lot more energy efficient–50% more–than the High Intensity Discharge (HID) and High Pressure Sodium (HPS) streetlights currently in use in cities, other municipalities and roads across the US. Linking them to a smart grid control network adds another 20% efficiency gain, San Francisco Gavin Newsom pointed out in the May 25 YouTube video embedded at the start of this post.
Albuquerque’s Visible Light Solar Technologies estimates that replacing the more than 100 million outdated streetlight, parking lot and exterior/interior lighting fixtures in the US with solid state LED lighting fixtures could save up to 189 terawatt-hours of electricity use–some 16 million households worth–and save $20 billion in electricity costs. That’s not to mention the CO2, sulfur and nitrogen oxide, and mercury emissions that would be avoided, and the jobs that would be created as a result.
The company aims to take this model a step further. It has introduced its Vector line of hybrid solar/LED lighting, a combination that operates more than 85% more efficiently than their HID counterparts.
Upper Echelon
San Francisco’s not the only California city keen to update and upgrade to a cleaner, more energy efficient and less costly means of lighting public streets, roadways and open spaces.
One aspect of a broader plan to plant 100,000 trees and have a zero-emissions street lighting system in place by 2022, San Jose announced its second LED streetlight pilot project in April, one that entailed retrofitting 125 of 65,000 streetlights as of June. BetaLED is supplying the LED streetlights while Echelon i.LON SmartServer monitors are being used to monitor and remotely control them.
On July 2, Echelon announced that Palo Alto is using the company’s LonWorks technology to run a demonstration LED smart grid street lighting project, the aim of which is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve lighting quality and save on energy and maintenance costs.
The demonstration project is set up to compare the energy efficiency of the new technology–both LED and induction lighting–with existing high-pressure sodium streetlights.
Operating the city’s 6,300 streetlights costs around $700,000 a year. Part and parcel of its Sustainability Policy and Climate Change Protection Plan, the city plans to replace all of them by 2015, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 600-950 metric tons per year, the equivalent of taking around 120 cars off the road.

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and back home to the Americas. LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email: huginn.muggin@gmail.com