Energy Efficiency

Published on September 12th, 2013 | by James Ayre


World’s Largest LED Streetlight Retrofit Completed In Los Angeles

September 12th, 2013 by  

The world’s largest LED streetlight retrofit was recently completed by the City of Los Angeles — the enormous street light swap-out, one that saw the installation of 141,089 brand-new LED street lights, was finished up just towards the end of June.

Thanks to efforts such as this — and the policies that accompany/precede them — the LED market has changed considerably over the past couple of years, quickly changing from a market catering to speciality applications to one that’s more or less the new standard for lighting.

Los Angeles’ Hoover Street before  and after the conversion to LED street lighting. Image Credit: Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting

Los Angeles’ Hoover Street before and after the conversion to LED street lighting. Image Credit: Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting

Forbes explains:

Los Angeles is certainly not alone in making the switch to LED street lighting. I’ve reported at this blog, for instance, about the many other California cities, big and small, that have done the same. In March of this year, the City of Las Vegas finished outfitting 42,000 street lights with LED fixtures. One month later, the City of Austin, Texas, announced plans to install 35,000 LED street lights. And, in December of last year, CPS Energy said it would install 20,000 LED street lights in San Antonio.

But, owing to its size and influence, Los Angeles, with its partners, the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), have done much to jump-start the market. Navigant (formerly Pike) Research recently predicted that shipments of LED street lights will increase from fewer than 3 million in 2012 to more than 17 million in 2020.

When you look at advantages of LED street lighting, this sharp rise/growth isn’t surprising. The City of Los Angeles, for example, has estimated that it will reduce its annual electric bill by at least $7 million dollars, with a further $2.5 million dollars saved as a result of reduced maintenance needs. According to Eric Woods of the Navigant Research blog, the LEDs that have been installed in Los Angeles use (on average) about 63% less electricity than the high-pressure sodium (HPS) fixtures that they have replaced, while also lasting much longer, and also being more pleasant to the human eye.

The second phase of Los Angeles’ LED replacement program will see the retrofit of about 70,000 decorative street lamps located throughout the city.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • andyrwebman

    It revolts me that such a bad job has been made in so many cities in choosing LED lights.
    Yes, they have the potential to be more energy efficient.
    Yes, we should aim for something better than the old sodium lights.

    But the overly blue lights they have chosen – AWFUL!

    It is quite possible to have LED street lights that are more like the sort of warm spectrum light we get in the afternoon. What they have chosen instead is something that broadly resembles midday light – which itself is not ideal for night lighting – but has the additional problem of an extra “spike” in the blue spectrum. In other words, it’s bluer than midday.

    On an aesthetic level, I find this ghastly, robbing us of the warm beuaty of our cities at night. But this fades before the health consequences.

    It is well know that our habit of lighting at night is partly repsonsible for the increases in cancer – because it supresses our natural melatonin cycle, and Melatonin is one of the most important things for supressing cancer in our body. Plus, it’s important for sleep.

    It is also known that blue light is massively more effective at suppressing melatonin than yellow light, so the effects of this on our health are likely to be dire. Add on this the fact that LED lights seem to have increased glare, and the harmful effects of blue light to the eyes, and you can see why I am so angry at this.

    It’s been done awfully by crude people with neither aesthetic sensitivity nor scientific knowlege. We should demand the replacement of the blue lights with warmer spectrum ones ASAP.

  • hank

    Definitely one for the Cassandra file.

    Why let the claim of “clean and green” excuse this stupid mistake?

    It took the American Medical Association four decades to warn about tobacco, it only took the A.M.A. one decade to warn about the health hazard of white light at night — which is exactly what these LEDs are adding to our lives.
    Light Pollution: Adverse Health Effects of Nighttime Lighting
    The push to rush the high-blue-emitting “white” LEDs is going to completely screw up any attempt to find out what causes cancer — because the blue band suppresses melatonin, and melatonin is one of the ways the body suppresses cancer cells. More white light at night, more cancer. So who do you blame, the chemical companies, or the city lights? Obscure the cause, by adding white light.

    You can look this stuff up. There’s no reason to replace the sodium lamps (amber, no blue in the light) with white light at nighttime — except to reduce the cost from powering the electric lights by shifting the cost to an external one, harming health.

  • andyrwebman

    The switch to LED lighting is a good idea. However, the colours of the LEDs are often very badly chosen.

    For some reason lighting with a “5000k” temperature seems to be popular – but you have to ask the question “why do we want the sort of light we get at Midday late at night”? Shouldn’t we, purely out of aesthetics, ask for lights that are a bit warmer? Maybe early to mid afternoon?

    But there is a more pressing reason than mere aesthetics – and that is health.

    Blue light suppresses melatonin production far more than yellow light, and melatonin has many important functions. For one, it regulates circadian rhythym, sleep, and a host of other functions important for health.

    For another, it’s one of your body’s most potent natural anti cancer compunds.

    So, by having midday frequencies at night, you can really seriously damage your health.

    It gets worse, too – LED lights with a nominal 5000k temperatuve usually have a sharp peak in the blue region – so they’re actually WORSE than midday daylight in terms of melatonin suppression.

    And it’s not just us affected, too – the nocturnal wildlife suffers.

    It doesn’t have to be this way – many manufacturers have started to produce lights with a warmer spectrum. Let’s encourage our councils to use them sooner rather than later.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Well, buy a 2500 or 2700. No one forces you to buy a 5000.

      • andyrwebman

        If it’s a street light I don’t have an alternative, do I?

        • Bob_Wallace

          Don’t spend your nights standing on street corners.

          You can put whatever bulb you want in your own house.

          • andyrwebman

            What about people walking their dogs at night?

            I sometimes go out for a walk after eating – especially if I’ve had to eat late because of work – or if I’m suffering from insomnia.

            As things stand, with the old lights my tension is relieved and I’m ready to relax at home.

            With the new lights, I’d end up feeling more awake than ever. It’s basically an encouragement to get less exercise.

            And the nocturnal wildlife we share the world with doesn’t have the option of changing their bulbs.

            Also – I understand that in San Fransisco people have been objecting to the new LEDs because the old character of yellow light, common in Hollywood movies, will be a thing of the past. It doesn’t have to be, though – warmer LEDs are available.

            I really think we ought to do something better than suggest “lock yourself in your house, put on the blackout curtains, and use yellow in your own house”.

            I’m all for environmental improvement in terms of CO2, but not at the cost of ruining the environment in other ways.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Is it not possible that you are making mountains out of molehills?

            6500K is the color of the pale blue north sky in the middle of winter. People who do poorly under a constant supply of that light need a bit of lower K to straighten things out.

          • andyrwebman

            I’m not sure how your last argument disputes mine – you’re arguing that we need more low temp light if we have a constant source of high temp.


            The above guide to colour temperature by time of day is an interesting resource. Unfortunately it neglects to include the intensity. But the gist is that for later periods in the day we have warmer light, with twilight being of a very high temp but obviously low intensity.

            Now, one of the issues I have with these blue LED lights is how bright they are – brighter than the reading lamp I use at home. We really shouldn’t be making our nights as bright as our day, (see posts about Melatonin cycle and Melatonin’s vital role in cancer suppression)

            Plus, I miss the night sometimes, especially as I’m a keen astronomer. I’ve hoped for years for something better than sodium lamps but have been disappointed by the lamps I’ve seen so far.

    • filmo

      5000 for industrial use is the norm because they’re cheaper and more efficient than ‘warmer’ LEDs. 2700s or 3200s would have been more expensive and put out less light. In either case the LEDs, while not full spectrum are certainly broader spectrum than the sodium vapor units they replaced. I expect fuller spectrum will have additional benefits in terms of accident reduction at night.

      • andyrwebman

        In some towns they’re compromising with a 4000K one – I believe a German town is doing this.

        You’re right that fuller spectrum is better than sodium lamp, but I really think the 5000K one is a bit masochistic. The worse thing is, I can see the first few in my home city when overlooking them from the hills and the wastage from sideways pouring light is huge – more than the old sodium ones next to it.

        A bit of efficiency could be gained with better reflectors and give us a warmer hue in exchange.

        5000K in side streets is certainly not good for folk.

    • Mike

      The LEDs they are installing appear brighter because of the higher color temperature however they do not produce as much light and are LESS efficient than the Sodium lights they replace. If you look up the per lumen efficiency of an entire system (Light +driver or ballast) HPS beats out LEDs, LEDs can see up to 70Lumens per watt while HPS lights are between 70-120 lumens per watt.

      Another problem with LEDs is that while they don’t “burn out” they will dim over time. If you look at a white LED you will notice a yellow phosphor covering the emitter chip, that phosphor converts blue light from the emitter to red blue and green that produce white light and is what made white LEDs practical for lighting however as time goes on that phosphor degrades the same way it would in a fluorescent lamps and after 30-50,000 hours of use you might only have half of the original brightness.

  • agelbert

    I love to see all these savings of energy providing the same or better function in society. Recall that the gross energy use numbers has always been a talking point by the pro fossil fuelers wailing and moaning that “it can’t be done cause we use so much energy”

    As usual, they are just trying to make fossil fuels look more valuable when fossil fuels are poison and need to be done away with as soon as possible.

    Here are another couple of technology advances that, once we all get these type of appliances, will drastically cut electrical energy demand in the USA:

    This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.
    September 18, 2013

    University of Maryland Wins Appliance Design Competition

    The Energy Department announced September 10 that the University of Maryland won the second annual Max Tech and Beyond design competition for ultra-low energy use appliances and equipment for the second year in a row.

    The team developed a heat pump clothes dryer that is nearly 59% more efficient than a traditional electric dryer. The winning prototype will be on display at this year’s U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in Irvine, California.

    With a comprehensive business plan, Ohio State University placed second in the challenge for its hybrid air/water conditioner that can achieve nearly a 73% energy cost savings over a conventional central air conditioning, dehumidification, and ventilation system.

    The Max Tech and Beyond competition challenges university teams to go beyond the current “max tech,” or maximum technology performance levels, by exploring new design concepts that could become the next generation of ultra-low energy use appliances and equipment. Funded by the Energy Department’s Building Technologies Office and managed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the competition encourages participating students to connect with U.S. manufacturers and license their designs after successful demonstration. In total, eight teams spent the 2012-2013 academic year in their respective laboratories, fine-tuning their innovative technologies and gaining valuable knowledge of energy efficiency.

    These efforts helped to produce ultra-efficient prototypes for demonstration and deployment in the global clean energy market. See the Energy Department Progress Alert.

    And check this out!

    This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.
    September 18, 2013

    Energy Department Dedicates Clean Energy Research Center

    As one of the first Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) projects, the Energy Department, NREL, and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing, North America, announced on September 11 a collaborative research effort to integrate plug-in electric vehicles into the power grid. Scientists and engineers at ESIF and NREL’s Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility will use 20 Prius plug-in hybrid electric vehicles from Toyota to develop and explore ways to prepare grid operators and energy infrastructure to accommodate the growing U.S. electric vehicle fleet.

    The renewable energy revolution is snowballing!

  • Miles

    Yet, the Australian Government, being as backward & ignorant as they come, continue to site on their hands with Green technology. Zero Progress with a brainless Australian Government. Australia really is the arse-hole end of the world.

    • RobS

      Zero progress except for an 8% fall in CO2 emissions from electricity production, a 14% fall in the use of coal for power generation, over 100% growth in solar installations and over 1.5% of electricity from rooftop solar which is about 6 times higher then the US. Australia is not the arsehole of the world and it is making great inroads into greentech. Wit a new conservative government elected less than a week ago we may see some major changes however to say we have made zero progress recently is utterly ridiculous.

      • Miles

        Sure, real progress!! confirms-plans-to-axe-clean-energy-bank-despite-pleas/4952096

        More environmental butchery from the Coalition Government.

        • RobS

          They haven’t even been sworn in yet, suggesting there has been “no progress” in Australia because we installed a new Government 6 days ago who are yet to be sworn in is nothing but breathless hyperbole. I pointed out a number of hard facts showing real progress over the last 12 months, you have failed to rebut one of them. The new government is hoping to take an axe to many climate programs once they have a compliant senate, we have no evidence yet what effect those PROPOSED changes will have, suggesting they negate previous progress before they are even in place is just silly.

  • RobS

    Some idea of the volume of power saved would be good. With 141,000 lights we could potentially be talking about completely neutralising the loss of SONGS in one hit or alternatively be removing the need for an entire coal plant worth of generation in one move. Do we have any sense of the Watts saved per swapped fixture?

    • susannaschick

      that’s a great question… I’ll see if I can find out.

  • Wayne Williamson

    Cool before and after pics….

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