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Traditional orange-tinted streetlights are out, and 21st Century LED lighting is in. But city agencies aren’t initiating these changes simply for style. Cities are doing it because they see an opportunity to save money and make their streets safer with intelligent software technology embedded within the LED lights.

For instance, both Jacksonville, FL and San Diego, CA partnered with General Electric in 2015 as test cities for GE’s software-enabled LED solution. The two cities and GE will install street lighting with the capability to connect, collect and analyze data from those lights. They plan to bring intelligence and efficiency to the streets.

GE is only one supplier that has shifted to the LED smart-lighting market because of the market growth. Philips Lighting is a leading, global provider of LED lights, as are Osram, Acuity Brands, Panasonic Corp. and General Electric. Each have set up new business models as traditional lamp sales drop, Forbes reported.

Large LED Lighting Firms:

Philips
Osram
General Eletric
Acuity Brands
Panasonic

So, as old style lightbulbs burn out, LED light replacements represent a market opportunity for contractors that’s only just beginning to grow. Energy Manager Today reported that worldwide, only about 13% of more than 140 million streetlights are LED. That number is expected to increase to roughly 65% by 2020.

Energy Efficiency Is the Major LED Motivator

Cities are willing to pay more upfront for LED lights because they know they will reap the benefits later on. Energy efficiency is a leading reason for the shift to LED lighting, despite higher costs per bulb than traditional sodium orange-glow bulbs.

Bulbs by the Hour

Anchorage, AK, a place where the sun can set quite early, is ready to spend between $4 million and $6 million to replace old high-pressure, orange-light sodium bulbs with white LED lights along Anchorage’s roads, trails, parking lots and other outdoor areas, Government Technology reported in September 2015. Anchorage is one city ahead of the pack on installing LED technology. In 2008, the largest Alaskan municipality launched a program to put LED lights in 16,000 streetlights, using $2.2 million in funds.

Other cities have invested, and started saving, with LED lighting. San Diego, CA expects to save more than $25,000 in energy costs each year because of its energy-efficiency lighting partnership with GE. Detroit, MN could save as much as $2.5 million a year because of LED lighting. Las Cruces, NM has saved about $13,500 annually from the 200 LED lights it installed, according to a report from the Smart Cities Council.

Onvia’s Project Center found cities and town agencies, like Anchorage, issued 28% of 120 bids and requests for proposals from January through August in 2015.

 
Released a request for proposals in April 2014 to install LED streetlights, as a conservation project. The city received $1.2 million in funding from the Tennessee Local Development Authority to issue qualified energy conservation bonds for related projects.
 
 
Issued a bid in April 2015 to replace 500 decorative acorn streetlights that have traditional high-pressure sodium lights with LED lighting. Its goal is reducing energy usage and maintenance, while also increasing the light quality.
 

Smart LED Lighting Offers Additional Benefits

LED lighting and cost-savings are important, but some cities see additional benefits to this new era of street lights such as the protection of their streets.

Los Angeles, CA announced in April 2015 that the city would install mobile chips into existing streetlights to connect them to all to the city’s cellular network, CNN Money reported. It’s a follow-on innovation since the city started retrofitting its streetlights with LED lights in 2008. As a result of the just-announced project, one laptop computer can control all of L.A.’s lights—whether it’s one light on one street, an area for a film shoot or even adjusting the lighting for a sporting event.

Likewise, Chattanooga, TN installed intelligent LED lighting in one of its public parks that was popular as a gang hangout, Government Technology reported. The new lighting system uses sensors and software to detect motion and send images and audio to a central system. The lighting can send information on people moving and traffic. Officials then can adjust the lighting automatically.

Innovations in networked LED streetlights can direct drivers to available parking spaces. Internal sensors can give warnings about hurricanes through a public address speaker inside. Even emergency responders can get real-time views of an area before arriving on-scene.

Looking ‘LED’ Good

Cities are invested in improving their livability and ‘looking good’ and LED lighting is helping them do that.

In 2013, the InterContinental Miami hotel installed 19-story LED lighting system that simulated the silhouette of a dancing woman. The Miami Tower in the heart of downtown has also become another landmark in the city’s skyline as the 47-story building is known to have an array of colors. LED Source wrote that the lights allow Miami to celebrate important events and show off civic pride.

Onvia’s Project Center found that local government agencies issued 23 solicitations from January 2014 through the end of August 2015 for smart lighting and color kinetics.

 
Released a bid in July 2014 to improve the façade of 12 historic buildings in the Historic Broadway Theatre District in Downtown Los Angeles. The scope of the work included lighting upgrades and new lighting installations, including color kinetics. The project was funded by L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar’s Bringing Back Broadway initiative.
 
 
Awarded Steiner Electric Company a $30,000 contract in September 2014 to install lighting on its Bridge Street Dam waterfall. The project includes 16 Philips ColorBurst Powercore LED flood lights with glare shield, a color kinetics Data Enabler Pro, and a 300-foot LED rope light, among other related items.
 

Smart LED Lighting in the Government Marketplace

Cities across the country are investing in retrofitting their streetlights in hopes of saving as much, or more, money than the projects’ costs. Construction and trade companies, particularly those in the lighting industry, will have a growing number of contracts. Operations and maintenance firms can receive multi-year or one-time contracts for installing street lighting or even support parking and public-safety work. Telecommunications and IT software businesses should be aware of opportunities for city government contracts as cities continue to implement the smart features that innovative lighting can bring to their cities.