LED holiday lighting in Toronto: the Gateway to a Green Way

Dec. 17, 2007
LEDs are the light source of choice for holiday lighting in Toronto, including a giant LED chandelier for Princes Gate. The city also exchanges new LED holiday lights for old incandescent strings, writes Brian Owen, our Canadian Columnist.
Toronto's Cavalcade of Lights, a winter holiday festival that celebrates the season with over 20 spectacular lighting displays throughout the Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) and Neighbourhoods of Toronto, this year includes the historic Princes’ Gates at Exhibition Place.

Exhibition Place, Canada's premier and internationally renowned fair grounds and exposition centre, is home to the Canadian National Exhibition and the Direct Energy Centre (formerly the National Trade Centre). Since 2004, the Cavalcade of Lights has been transformed into the Cavalcade of LEDs, as it is now mandated that all displays and participating events employ only LEDs. This direction can be attributed to the initiatives of the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), who in 2003, worked with a number of BIAs, to install LEDs in their holiday tree lighting.

This year, the Bloor West Village, one such BIA, has even taken their tree lighting off the electrical grid and is now powering them with photovoltaic solar panels, a testament to the lower power requirements of LED. Faced with enormously expensive infrastructure costs to replace ground wiring, the decision was made to go with PV Solar, as LED made it possible.

Princes Gates LED chandelier

The Princes Gates were built in 1927 and restored over the last 5 years. They are a landmark on Toronto's Lakeshore and the gateway to Exhibition Place, which attracts over 5.2 million visitors each year. These historic Gates are now a holiday feature and are decoratively illuminated to join the CN Tower, as a participant in the 2007 Cavalcade of Lights. Color Kinetics of Philips SSL illuminated the CN Tower with LED lights in June 2007 (see CN Tower gets LED treatment). Exhibition Place is also the site of a pilot installation of LED street lights (see LED streetlights help Toronto become brighter and greener).

The Princes’ Gates LED illumination features a 22-foot long chandelier extending from the arch of the main opening. The chandelier has 32,000 individual LEDs and was designed by Blachere Illumination Canada, a branch of Blachere Illumination of France. “The Princes Gates LED chandelier is a masterpiece of design”, stated Vladimir Lourie, Managing Director of Blachere Canada, adding, “It is a pleasure to a part of this lighting project.”

The trees flanking the Gates were decorated with ColorWave light strings from Pharos Innovations, a Toronto company which invented and patented the colour-changing technology in AC-driven applications and licensed the technology to Holiday Creations of Denver, Colorado, USA. The latter company is a principal supplier of Energy Star-compliant LED holiday light strings within North America and throughout the world. A variety of colour combinations decorate a broad area of evergreens and deciduous trees at the forefront of the historic site.

“We are excited about the major installation of ColorWave colour-changing LED Christmas lights at the landmark Princes' Gates”, said Boon Chuah, partner in Pharos Innovations, adding, “While this specific installation is for the holiday season, because of its high energy efficiency and durability ColorWave is well suited for year round use in consumer and industrial applications. ColorWave adds a dynamic dimension to both indoor and outdoor lighting displays".

Invented and introduced in 2001 by David Allen of Fiber Optic Designs of Philadelphia, PA, USA and licensed to Holiday Creations in 2003, these A/C driven LED string sets have overtaken the older incandescent light sets with their greater-than 90% energy savings. Color Wave takes the static colour LED sets to a new dimension.

“Clearly Canada continues to lead in the adoption of LED technologies but the rest of the world is finally waking up to these issues as well”, stated John Hayes, CEO of Holiday Creations, adding, “Even China has set a date for the replacement of incandescent light in China and they manufacture over 70% of the incandescent bulbs used in the world”.

Festive light exchange

Exchange program Albeit a decorative and seasonal application, LEDs in holiday lights join traffic signals, tail lights and exit signs in everyday applications that allow the consumer to become more familiar with LED technology, see the potential of LED and the future of the technology in general illumination, all setting the stage for process of Market Transformation in general illumination or lighting. In a partnership since 2005, TABIA has worked with Toronto Hydro to get Holiday LEDs in the hands of Toronto residents, through a series of exchanges or turn-ins at the neighbourhood lighting ceremonies in the BIAs. This program, commenced in 2004 by Toronto Hydro directly, became a partnership with TABIA in 2005 and is now facilitated by its greenTbiz since 2006.

“This further exemplifies the ‘green’ initiatives taking place in the BIAs and allows us to deliver this message to the community as a whole,” said Chantal Brundage, Program Manager of greenTbiz, who delivers the energy conservation & efficiency and environmental practices program to the 62 BIAs and over 25,000 businesses and property owners. GreenTbiz is also responsible for the LED general illumination pilots and facilitates LED City Toronto. “TABIA and the participating BIAs are pleased to be a part of this energy conservation initiative”, stated John Kiru, Executive Director of TABIA, adding, “The BIAs can reach out to their adjacent residential communities with this valuable holiday conservation message and provide them with a set of LEDs during their visit to the illumination events. This is good for everyone and promotes the BIA.”

Decommissioning Gerry Phillips, the Province of Ontario’s new Minister of Energy hosted one such community event, exchanging LEDs for old incandescent holiday lights for Toronto residents. A new venue this year was Downsview Park in north Toronto. Peter Love, Ontario's Chief Energy Conservation Officer joined Tony Genco, president and CEO of Downsview Park at this new venue. Over 1200 old sets were collected at Downsview Park and Peter Love is seen with Reg Gosling of Toronto Hydro, decommissioning the old incandescent sets and readying them to environmentally responsible recycling.

Energy savings through LEDs

Overall, since its inception in 2004, the Toronto exchange initiative has recovered over 40,000 sets of old incandescent sets removing them from the electricity grid and sending them to environmentally responsible recycling, distributed over 20,000 sets of LEDs and resultantly reduced electricity energy demand by over 4 Megawatts. If a residential holiday lighting season is considered to be 8 weeks long, and the lights are on 7 days per week for 6 hours per day, this would result in a further overall reduction of 1.34 million kW/h in electricity energy consumption per season.

This season alone, 15,000 sets of incandescent were turned in and a record 10,000 sets of LEDs were distributed in 21 communities of Toronto, slashing 2 Megawatts from Toronto’s power grid.

“The Festive Light Exchange helps us support the City’s Cavalcade of Lights festival, fostering community spirit,” said David O’Brien, President and CEO, Toronto Hydro Corporation. ”It also draws people to participate in events in their neighbourhoods, and gives us an opportunity to help customers cut power consumption. It’s amazing to think that such a simple program can have such impressive results. Through the Festive Light Exchange, they’ve saved enough power equal to the electricity demand of 600 homes.” Adding, “This is one of the most successful programs of its kind in Canada.”

In the near future, LEDs Magazine will bring you special reports on Market Transformation and how this relates to LED in lighting, as well as on the development, maturation and success of LED holiday lights, both for consumers and for the holiday illumination festivals, including the recent Energy Star criteria for Decorative Light Strings (DLS) and how Canada played a major role.