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Energy Efficiency

Published on June 26th, 2018 | by Kyle Field


Current By GE Brings Connectivity & Intelligence To LED Street Lights

June 26th, 2018 by  

Cities around the world are getting down to the nitty-gritty of energy efficiency in an all-hands-on-deck effort to drive the loss out of their electrical spending. One of the low-hanging fruit in that equation for cities around the world is street lighting. Traditional incandescent and metal halide lights are really good at turning electricity into heat, but not so great at turning electricity into light, making them a juicy target for an energy efficiency overhaul.

Image courtesy: Current by GE

LED lights are famed for their efficiency and low heat signature which created a market for outdoor LED street light fixtures that, as the cost of LED drivers has come down over the last 5 years, offer very attractive paybacks and significant energy savings and lower maintenance over the life of the fixture. We sat down with Current’s Chief Marketing Officer Bruce Stewart at Current by GE’s Hendersonville, North Carolina, factory to see where the brand is headed.

LEDs Bring in the Cost Savings

Current’s team of lighting experts were also building LED streetlight fixtures but saw another opportunity that could not only delivery energy efficiency savings to the bottom line, but that also had the potential to add significant value to cities in the form of additional sensors that could provide a platform for the city to build even more solutions for its residents.

“The wonderful news is that you have this phenomenal product that maybe had annual or every other year maintenance and replacement requirements that had a whole set of capital infrastructure and now you have something that uses substantially less energy and lasts maybe 15 years,” Bruce shared.

Installing LEDs results in a situation where cities are set up to save tons of cash on electricity with a base model fixture. Current by GE has built a line of products that bundle additional functionality into its LED lighting fixtures, allowing cities to reinvest the energy savings that come from upgrading to LED lighting into a nicer fixture that can deliver more functionality to their city.

One Fixture to Rule Them All

Current’s Intelligent Lighting solutions can be bundled with a sensor suite that can add cameras to each light fixture. Bruce shared that the upsell is made easier by the savings coming from the conversion to LED lighting, “On that journey, we have a very simple proposition: take some of the energy efficiency and cost savings that you’re generating and think about what other things you could do to enhance the city.”

Improvements in computer vision in the last 5 years allow Current’s software partners to offer features such as parking spot locating as an effective means of reducing the amount of time drivers take to find a parking spot, thereby reducing emissions from cars that would otherwise be put into seemingly endless holding patterns around the block.

Image courtesy: Current by GE

Solutions abound for cameras, including obvious law enforcement applications and even parking enforcement. Upgrading city infrastructure to allow cameras embedded in lighting fixtures gives cities the infrastructure needed to detect when cars arrive and leave, modernizing parking management while also providing the foundation for new solutions that give residents new tools for finding parking spots at the same time.

Bruce shared that the move to LED lighting and especially smart LED lighting is the logical next step for many cities. “It is intuitive, it is now cost effective more than it ever has been and the cost savings are more demonstrated and proven than they’ve ever been.” It appears that data does indeed make the world go ’round as cities all around the world are now jumping into LED street lighting with both feet.

Take the Leap

Just don’t pretend you’re leaping into the unknown. The basic replacement of traditional high pressure sodium, metal halide or incandescent street lighting with LED lighting has been a known opportunity for cities, businesses, shopping malls and the like for years. As more and more cities around the world migrate their lighting systems, the cost picture will only continue to improve.

Current by GE worked with Ashtabula County in Ohio to transform the interchange at the I-90 and State Route 11 with its Evolve LED High Mast lights. It’s impressive to see both how normal but also how bright it looks with the new lights, while also saving the county a ton of money in energy to power them.

Image courtesy: Current by GE

A Chilly Installation

Up north in Anchorage, Alaska, the dark, cold winters and hot but brief summers make for a very challenging climate for outdoor lighting fixtures. Across the seasons, the hours of daylight change drastically, making nighttime lighting a critical piece of city infrastructure during those long winter nights. The Current by GE team came in and found that replacing traditional 150-400 watt high pressure sodium lights with its LightGrid LED Lights would save the Municipality more than 40% in energy usage resulting in a payback of eight years.

Gary Agron, the Division Manager of Engineering at the Anchorage Municipal Light & Power shared that, “Our lighting upgrade is expected to save our ratepayers over $400,000 a year in energy and maintenance costs and will allow our community to put those funds towards other pressing needs, including snow removal, law enforcement, and housing for the homeless.”

Outdoor lighting has evolved very quickly from traditional lighting solutions to a wide range of modern LED lighting that is undergoing a transition of its own. Cities around the world are, in one fell swoop, upgrading their lighting infrastructure, saving electricity each month and adding the foundation for a wide range of intelligent city solutions in the years to come.

Check out the video below that highlights some of the exciting possibilities that Current’s lighting solutions make available to cities or head over to Current’s official website to explore the solutions they offer in more detail.

Disclaimer: Current by GE paid for the author’s travel to and from its Hendersonville, North Carolina factory.

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About the Author

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in BYD, SolarEdge, and Tesla.

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