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New York, Sydney and Toronto LED scale-ups underway

26 April 2011
New York, Sydney and Toronto LED scale-ups underway

By Phil Jessup, Cities and Technology Director, The Climate Group

Innovation scholars tell us that acceptance of a new technology usually depends on whether superior performance is offered when weighed against the performance of the incumbent product. For this reason, potential adopters almost universally engage in field trials before they make up their minds.

In three influential cities, New York, Sydney and Toronto, practice is now affirming market transformation theory.

The New York Department of Transportation (DOT) first began LED trials in historic Central Park in October 2009. Since then, DOT staff have compiled over a year's worth of monthly data, which The Climate Group has analyzed and submitted to the department. Among the five LED products tested, several showed excellent performance, very little light loss and negligible color degradation.

The business case also looks rock solid—economic payback is expected in a four to six year time frame. Finally, the public appears to have taken a shine to the new LED lights. One LED luminaire was apparently rotated on its pole by visitors, to illuminate a grassy area they like to picnic on at night!

The DOT is sold: staff are now readying a tender for replacement of all 1,400 heritage lamps in the Park. Thankfully they have received a grant to replace all of the lamps, so financing won’t be necessary.

Over in Sydney, Australia, the story is similarly glowing. Even before Sydney joined The Climate Group's LED program, City staff had already mounted four LED trials, testing several different products. A second round of trials, organized with the help of The Climate Group, began in 2010—this time using the LightSavers monitoring protocol, testing smart controls, and including a public opinion survey of the LED lights being trialed.

As a result, the City of Sydney’s staff have gained substantial experience with LED technology, and the compelling performance results now see the City ready to replace all of the 8,559 street and park lights under their operation. The overwhelmingly positive results of the public opinion survey were particularly helpful in convincing elected councilors to take the plunge.

The replacement of conventional lights with LED technology will be rolled out over three years. Winning bidders will be expected to deliver the City a minimum of 40% savings and greenhouse gas reductions. Meanwhile, various financing options are being explored.

Canada also boasts shining LED results. The Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) has been working with another City agency, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation to test LED luminaires in their housing residence garages. T8 lamps have been tested alongside the LED products, and both incorporated controls that increase light output when there is movement nearby, allowing the base light output to be set below previous practice.

These products have operated 24/7 over 6,500 hours—the longest running among the LED trials. Performance has been excellent; no has been no light loss over the period and there was strong public acceptance of the LED color temperature and controls features.

Housing officials appear to favor the LED luminaires despite their higher cost, due to strong public endorsement and the likelihood that Toronto residents won’t be calling their local councilors to complain about lights burning out in their garage!

TAF and its partners are now tendering further engineering and financial studies to replace the existing lighting in 30 garages, amounting to about 3,000 luminaires. TAF is also creating a procurement consortium with local hospitals and other public agencies, to jointly tender LED products to further reduce price.

In sum, well-conceived trials across the world are decisively showing that this new technology performs well, meeting or exceeding the expectations of potential adopters. And perhaps even more importantly, public acceptance as measured by surveys, and opinion polls - or even increased park use at night - has also built political support in these three cities.

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