As part of the LightSavers program, TAF and the City of Hamilton partnered to undertake a pilot test of LED street lights on a public street in downtown Hamilton. When the project was installed, in November 2009, there was widespread scepticism about the ability of LED street lights to meet North American standards for roadway illumination. There were also question about product lifespans and economic viability. Thankfully, the Hamilton pilot project, and the recently released pilot report, was able to shed some light on all of these issues, while raising some additional questions.
The project involved replacement of four High Pressure Sodium (HPS) ‘cobra head’ style streetlights with four LED street lights. The LED fixtures were manufactured by LED Roadway Lighting, a Nova Scotia based company which has rapidly grown to become one of the most successful Canadian LED manufacturers.
The first thing we learned from the project was that LED streetlights can meet North American standards for roadway illumination. Despite going from 130 watt HPS fixtures down to 59 Watt LEDs, illuminance levels on the road actually increased by about 50%, well above required levels. And the shift from yellow/orange light provided by the old HPS system to white light (5000K) really improved the look of the street.
While economics are still a challenge, the project is expected to pay for itself within the. expected lifetime of the fixtures. However, prices are falling quickly: at todays prices, the payback would have been under 10 years.
However, after about a year in the field, all four fixtures were damaged by what is believed to have been a significant power surge event. This exposed what had hitherto been a sleeper issue with LED street and area lights: surge protection. The challenge is, the electronics which drive LEDs are much more vulnerable to power surges than the older, less efficient technologies. To their credit, LED Roadway Lighting immediately replaced all four fixtures with their next generation of fixtures. Moreover, they were able to incorporate the lessons learned on this and other installations by including significantly improved surge protection, and field replaceable surge protection units, into all their new units.
With pilot projects as with anything else, we learn the most from our failures. This project taught us that LED technology can replace incumbent technologies while meeting illuminance standards and saving energy. Equally importantly, the project taught us to look for strong surge protection capability, and field serviceability, in LED street and area lighting fixtures.
The City of Hamilton has also gone on to install two additional pilot projects on the same street, so they can compare results from a variety of different products. Check out LightSavers.ca for details!