Schematic by Greater City Providence’s resident EE Matthew Coolidge
New York City’s Department of Transportation has tapped the Office for Visual Interaction for testing LED street lighting around the Big Apple. If successful, all of the city’s 300,000 street lamps could one day be made up of LEDs.
This is a very cool idea, and in my opinion, an inevitable evolution. Since LEDs use less power than existing halogen, incandescent, or even fluorescent bulbs, it makes sense that this will be the choice in illuminating miles and miles of roadway. Moreover, when cities and states start ordering LED based street-lights, the quantity needed will no doubt force down the cost, eventually leading the way to more adoption of LEDs as a lighting source.
Taking this idea a step further, since LEDs require so little power, perhaps it’s not unreasonable to think of a street-lamp that charges itself with a solar cell? Unlike some other types of lamps that use a gas to illuminate, LEDs can turn on and off instantaneously. One could even imagine street-lamps smart enough to turn on or off automatically to
scare the crap out of you save energy if there is no one in proximity.
If all of the world’s light bulbs were replaced with LEDs for a period of 10 years, Schubert and Kim estimate the following benefits would be realized:
- Energy savings of 1.9 – 1020 joules
- Electrical energy consumption would be reduced by terawatt hours
- Financial savings of $1.83 trillion
- Carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by 10.68 gigatons
- Crude oil consumption would be reduced by 962 million barrels
- The number of required global power plants would be reduced by 280
We’ve already seen how LEDs have been used to improve traffic signals. LEDs use less energy, and thus will cost less to operate in the long run. Some types of LEDs even have amazingly long lifespans, but it will take some early adopters, like (hopefully) NYC, to make this green-dream come true.