Controls, Controls, Controls.
If I had to sum up Lightfair 2018 with one word, it would be 'controls.'
LED lighting technology has come such a long way that it’s about the only viable choice for a lighting retrofit project. But the real edge for saving energy and money with your lighting system–whether indoor, exterior, stadium or street and roadway–is going to come from the ability to control lighting in a way that is ‘smart.’
According to LFI speaker Apurba Pradhan, 50% of future energy savings will come from controls. Despite this promising figure, connected lighting has had a very low penetration rate of less than 1%.
So, why are so many streetlighting upgrade projects moving forward without the addition of lighting controls? Lang argues that with budget limitations, internal competition for capital, and the associated risks and hassles associated with a burgeoning technology, City leaders are often shy about adding controls.
Several speakers at Lightfair expressed with urgency that this shyness to adopt controls is going to lead to a point of no return–or at least, a point of no return for quite a while.
Lighting conversion projects are costly, time-intensive, and they inevitably disturb communities during the installation phase at least slightly. In proceeding with a lighting upgrade project without controls, one blocks the opportunity to implement them for many years to come. As a Public Works Director, you're not going to go through the costly, lengthy process of replacing thousands of streetlight lamps with LEDs just to revisit those lights a few years later so you can remove their photocell with control nodes. Installing lights with controls on the first go is key, and since LED adoption is accelerating, it is crucial to convince city leaders of the value of commissioning smart lighting solutions. Essentially, do it once, and do it right.
What about the cost push-back? Smart lighting options cost more, yes. However, with the benefit of understanding exactly which streetlight is out and when, having access to real-time performance metrics, and being able to pre-determine lighting schedules that are sensitive to the public’s visual comfort, safety, and tax dollars, the cost of controls is likely justified. Beyond intuitively assuming that Smart Lighting is worth it, a cost analysis of Smart Lighting Solutions funded by the National Research Fund, concluded that "LED technology combined with dimming of light intensity provides higher energy savings than other evaluated solutions," which included delay-based and encounter-based lighting.
Think about being able to adjust light levels after midnight. Not only will your city save a great deal of energy, but your lights will contribute less light pollution and visual glare for drivers and folks whose bedrooms lie beneath the glow of streetlights. All of this correlates to fewer tax dollars, a reduced negative environmental impact, happier eyes, and deeper sleep.
Now, underscoring the real need to utilize adaptive lighting are a few staggering statistics presented by Bob Parks, Executive Director of the Smart Outdoor Lighting Alliance.
We are wasting 60-70% of our streetlighting energy as a nation, or 1.1 petawatts of energy, per year.
With all of that wasted energy, we could power 7,750,000 homes, mitigating 750 million tons of CO₂ per year–not to mention, save $110 billion with a b per year.
Bob Parks argues that as a society we are wasting such massive amounts of energy for three main reasons:
Increased light levels make us "feel safer"
Lighting increases daytime, and thus extends our hours of commerce
Those in charge of streetlighting fear litigation associated with "insufficient" light levels (even though they "have no duty to the public to provide streetlights," as affirmed in Plattner v. City of Riverside, as one example)
Parks noted that there is no clear correlation between increased light levels and decreased safety. "Crime is not a roach." By turning the lights on, you can't expect crime to scurry under the cupboards. "You need to do the hard work" and "crime is more complicated" than just lighting, Parks argued.
Our fear of dimming streetlights is leaving billions of dollars in savings on the table, plain and simple. That is a fear that we must overcome in the interest of our planet and our tax dollars.
What's our final takeaway from all of this?
There is some work left to do to effectively communicate the economic, environmental and public health benefits associated with smart lighting controls. There are some excellent case studies in which cities, like Chicago, are implementing smart controls at scale, and Lightfair 2018 was the perfect arena to communicate lessons learned from this project and others of its kind. Finally, LFI served as a refreshing reminder that there are thousands of great minds at work, pursuing deeper knowledge and sharpening their tools to effectively advocate for smarter lighting.
Evari GIS Consulting is incredibly excited and honored to be involved in the Chicago Infrastructure Trust's Smart Streetlighting Project, providing GIS data collection and controls integration support. We look forward to seeing all of the hard work put into this massive, 270K streetlight project come to fruition, and we don't think there could have been a better location for #LFI2018 than Chicago!