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5 Ways LED Street Lights Are Changing the Future

Cities everywhere are growing wise to the advantages of intelligent LED street lights and the community benefits controls can bring. From accurate energy measurement that saves money to intelligent infrastructure that connects people and machines, Current, powered by GE, looks at key trends transforming your next drive around the block.

1 |  Accelerated LED adoption
LED is becoming the best choice for many outdoor lighting applications, and rapid LED street light adoption will continue, cites Navigant Research,due to falling prices, increased efficiency, better light quality, reduced trespass and improved controllability. Today, fewer than 20 million street lights are LED, compared to 150 million high pressure sodium (HPS) fixtures worldwide. By 2023, however, there will be about 100 million LED street lights—one for each HPS fixture remaining. In fact, more than 50 percent of all new luminaire shipments are now LED, reports Navigant, noting the massive installed base of HPS luminaires will take time to replace.A planned 95,000-fixture conversion from HPS fixtures to LED lighting fixtures in the city of Phoenix is expected to yield more than $57,000 in energy cost savings, plus an additional $41,000 in anticipated maintenance savings per year.  “Evolve™ LED street lighting is our new standard and will be installed anywhere a fixture needs to be replaced or where new construction and capital improvements occur,” said Jason Fernandez, principal engineer technician with the Phoenix Street Transportation Department. “Additionally, with the energy and cost savings we experience from each new fixture, we're putting that money toward our investment for more LED street lights.”

2 |  Comfortable with controls There is equal enthusiasm for networked solutions. Globally, shipments of control nodes are forecasted to grow from about 1.3 million today to 6.8 million by 2023, with roadway lights making up the bulk of these shipments, according to Navigant. Large-scale LED replacement projects are being conducted at a time when features from networked lighting controls are becoming compelling and when city managers are becoming more comfortable with the technology. 

“Demand for outdoor lighting is increasing all the time as cities and utilities continue to recognize the value in both control and monitoring,” said Rick Freeman, global product general manager of intelligent devices for Current, powered by GE.    “With new outdoor lighting systems that integrate controls with GPS locators, like the LightGrid™technology, fixtures suddenly become intelligent     ‘assets’ rather than just a light source.”

3 |  Quick to adapt
Better lighting controls also promise more responsive roadway lighting systems. Adaptive lighting is the raising or lowering of street-light levels based on the needs of drivers, time of day, traffic and other factors. This first requires street lights with dimming capabilities, as well as agreement around revised light-level guidelines. Armed with actionable information, municipalities and transportation departments can implement smarter energy-saving strategies through more precise on/off and dimming schedules, particularly during a middle-of-the-night operation in low-traffic areas. Freeman adds that new standards, when properly considered, could sustain current safety levels on many roadways while reducing wasted energy and unwanted light at the same time.

4 |  Time of use utilities
Lighting controls are even making it possible for municipalities to pay only for the energy they actually use. Street lights with “smart measurement” nodes can measure electricity use with utility-grade accuracy, opening the door to new time-of-use (TOU) billing scenarios that save money and help monetize the street-light network. The city of San Diego, in partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), now uses LightGrid technology from Current, powered by GE, to capture savings beyond a flat-rate tariff.

5 |  Intelligent city infrastructure
It’s easy to see why street lights are quickly becoming the building blocks of tomorrow’s intelligent cities. Imagine a future where street lights act as security cameras, electric vehicle charging stations, mobile hot spots, pedestrian counters, concealed placement speakers, seismic sensors and push-to-talk emergency call stations—all at once. By connecting people, vehicles and infrastructure and then gathering street-level analytics from those connections, intelligent street lighting can optimize transportation to keep cities running smarter and faster. Technology is reshaping the role street lights play in our world in dramatic ways. One day, when billions of people are connected to billions more machines, when buildings banter back and forth, and a conversation with critical infrastructure is commonplace, society will forget how it started. But intelligent street lights will still be there— illuminating, listening, and at times, talking back.