LED street lighting

The City of Ann Arbor is on a steady path to install LED street lighting. Downtown's Main Street and the campus entrance along South State Street both have distinctive and highly visible LEDs to illuminate well-travelled corridors.

While it's clear the LED lights use less energy, it's not always obvious that they cost less to install and operate for the duration of their expected lifetime. The technology is moving fast enough that next year's model will top this year's for the foreseeable future. Early adopters pay for research.

When electric street lighting first appeared to replace gas lighting, it was seen as a sign of civic progress. LED street lighting must be valued as a sign that we live in a progressive place that will invest something beyond the minimum in order to light the way to the future.

Thanks to John Laich for the idea.  Tom Easterday noted the Acriche line of LEDs from Seoul Semiconductor which can be driven directly from 110/120 or 220/230 volts and are designed for street lighting applications. Damn Arbor notes the national attention that Ann Arbor's LED street lighting program has recieved, e.g. this detailed account in National Geographic. One of the installed systems is the Leonis from Philips.

2 thoughts on “LED street lighting

  1. Murph

    You appear to be operating from the assumption that LED streetlighting is more expensive, or at least shading on that side of breakeven. LED is actually, depending on who owns the lights, pretty well on the good side of the cost equation at this point. MDOT, rarely known for their cutting-edge progressive values, is doing a lot of LEDs these days. Lincoln Park just upgraded a number of theirs. Ypsilanti’s current Cross Street work will include LEDs.
    One of the big ticket questions anymore is the cost of doing business with DTE. In many/most cities locally, DTE owns the streetlights, and contracts with the city on a flat per-pole basis to light and maintain them. DTE has not yet come up with standardized rates for LED lighting, meaning that an expensive retrofit process can include zero cost savings for the city. Cities that own part of their own streetlighting system (or have the capacity to negotiate a better deal with DTE) can pretty easily come out ahead on the cost equation.
    So, your basic thesis is correct: the cost equation will be even better next year than it is this year, as the tech (and the social/legal framework that surrounds it) matures — but I wanted to note that it’s not the tech itself that’s necessarily causing “early adopter” costs.

  2. Edward Vielmetti

    Thanks Murph. If I had to wonder about the cost equation, it would only be that street lighting projects are most likely to be thought of as long term capital projects, where you really don’t want to be doing basic infrastructure installations that you can’t guarantee will outlive the funding cycle for them. The tradeoff is operational expense for capital expense, and as you know, in many worlds those piles of money can’t be swapped around easily. I have to wonder about systems that are cheap to run but where there is a lot of uncertainty about how they age since there is very little experience with long term use.


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