Outdoor Lighting: Parking garages get LEDs, Pittsburgh accelerates project

Sept. 13, 2010
LED-based SSL will deliver significant energy savings in new parking-garage installations, while more municipalities announce LED street-light projects, and companies take novel approaches to SSL-based outdoor light designs.

LED-based solid-state lighting (SSL) retrofits in parking garages promise to bring major energy and maintenance savings to a Wisconsin casino and an Atlanta, Georgia shopping plaza. Also, municipalities in Nebraska, North Carolina and Pennsylvania have announced new LED street-light retrofit projects. Finally, solar-based SSL is key in global regions that lack a robust electrical grid and lamp makers are turning to new materials for outdoor lighting applications.

The Potawatomi Bingo Casino located in the Menomonee Valley near Milwaukee, Wisconsin has one of the largest parking garages in the state and is lit 24 hours a day, making it a good target for an SSL retrofit. The Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports that a $918,000 LED lighting project will replace 1700 fixtures and trim lighting energy usage by 50%.

The casino is expecting to realize a $221,000 in savings next year – both from energy savings and an expected $120,000 in maintenance cost savings. BetaLED is supplying the luminaires.

A United States Department of Energy (DOE) grant of $500,000 combined with a financing package arranged by contractor Uihlein Electric and legal firm Godfrey and Kahn made the project feasible. The casino is also turning to LED-based indoor lighting to cut energy usage.

The Journal Sentinel article also noted that two other recent area parking-garage projects turned to SSL. Both The Brewery multi-use complex at the former Pabst Brewery site and the local Froedtert Hospital installed LED lighting with motion sensors and dimming capabilities.

Such adaptive controls accelerate SSL savings as we reported in our article "Adaptive controls add to LED efficiency". In addition to further reducing energy usage, dimming will double the life expectancy of the LED luminaires according to Roman Electric, the contractor that handled The Brewery retrofit. Presumably the longer life comes from daytime hours when some of the lights can be turned off entirely.

Buckhead Marketplace garage

In the Atlanta-area Buckhead Marketplace shopping plaza, Redbird LED completed a retrofit of the lighting in the underground garage using linear LED products. Many such garages today use linear fluorescent lamps so the new lighting looks similar to the lamps that were replaced yet offers better directionality and a 50,000-hr rated lifetime.

Most linear-LED lamps have not reached the efficacy levels of linear fluorescents at this point as we covered in "LED-based T8 replacement tubes struggle as fluorescent retrofits". But Redbird claims that the Vapor Tight Luminaires that it installed "enhance the lighting of parking spaces and walls along the periphery of the parking garage." The luminaires offer a field-adjustable beam pattern that reduces glare to pedestrians while washing the walls with light.

Redbird LED president Jonathan Eppstein said, "LED linear lights were a great solution for the Buckhead Marketplace project. The quality of the lighting has been enhanced and they will realize energy savings for many years."

Redbird makes linear SSL replacements for both T8 and T12 fluorescent tubes, and luminaires in various styles including troffers, high-bay luminaires, and the Vapor Tight Luminaires installed in Atlanta. The installed luminaires mount the LED tubes in a way that allows for the directional adjustment. The two-tube luminaires installed use the company's 4-ft LED replacement tubes and each luminaire consumes 40W.

Redbird did not make any claims about efficacy of the LED tubes relative to fluorescent tubes. Certainly the power consumption of the LED tubes is significantly lower than that of a typical 2-tube 4-ft fluorescent luminaire. Redbird did note that the LED tubes work far better in cold weather and are more resistant to damage. Perhaps there is also an advantage in paring the company's LEDs tubes with its own custom luminaire.

Pittsburgh broadens LED street light deployment

In street-lighting news, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is moving forward with a larger deployment of LED-based lights. Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell awarded the city a $816,105 grant to begin phase one of a plan to replace all city street lights with SSL. Pittsburgh has been an early adopter of LED street lights and begin planning a move to LEDs back in 2008.

The phase one grant will finance the retrofit of 40,000 high-pressure sodium (HPS) street lights throughout the 30 business districts in the city. The city expects to reap $110,000 in annual energy and maintenance savings.

The funds for the Pittsburgh grant came from the Duquesne Light Settlement – a $6 million fund established in 2006 resulting from power rate increases by the utility. In total, Governor Rendell handed out $20.5 million in grants on September 1 – all relating to clean energy. The funds came from various sources and included some indoor SSL projects as well.

"A few years ago, projects like these existed only in theory. Today, they are a reality," said Governor Rendell. "They benefit Pennsylvania's consumers by generating and saving electricity, driving down utility rates, making additional projects more affordable and feasible, while stimulating the economy by creating manufacturing and employment opportunities, attracting private investments and making our environment cleaner."

Smaller SSL street light deployments are also coming to Cary, North Carolina and Wilber, Nebraska. According to the New Streetlights web site, Wilber will replace 150 mercury-vapor and HPS lights with SSL. A DOE Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) will provide $122,145 of the $152,681 needed for the project.

The American Recover and Reinvestment Act will fund 34 LED replacement street lights in Cary according to the Cary Citizen. The city hopes to save $5000 annually in energy costs.

Plastic outdoor lamp

The popularity of SSL in outdoor-lighting applications is also driving the development of a variety of new lamp and luminaire designs. For example Japanese companies Iwasaki Electric and Teijin Limited have developed an all-plastic lamp design for outdoor applications. The lamp only utilizes metal in the base/socket area. A thermally-conductive resin comprises the housing and mitigates the well known heat issues common to LED lamps (see Systematic thermal approaches enhance modular and retrofit LED lighting).

You can also expect to continue to see solar-powered LED luminaires hit the market especially in regions where there is no power grid or where the grid suffers inherent reliability issues. For example, we recently covered the 1000-Village Solar LED program targeting China, India, and Africa.

The solar trend is evident in products being released in regions such as India. For example, Wipro just release a solar-chargeable LED lantern in India according to the India Infoline Limited web site. Wipro is far better known as a global supplier of PCs and other information technology, but also has a division called Wipro Consumer Care and Lighting that among many other things is developing LED SSL products.