The LED Takeover

Photo by Dan DeLuca. Some rights reserved.

Photo by Dan DeLuca. Some rights reserved.

If you’ve been to a major city in the U.S., Canada, or the U.K. in the last five years, chances are you’ve been introduced to LED street lights. You know, they’re the ones that beam bright blueish light (instead of the traditionally warm, orange glow of high pressure sodium lights) and save tons and tons of energy! For anyone unfamiliar, a quick (like, one sentence quick) introduction: LEDs (light-emitting diodes) require only half the energy (48 to 62 percent less, according to Seattle City Light) output of traditional light sources and require much less maintenance or use of greenhouse gases in their production. In Seattle, we were early adopters of LED street light technology, with plans dating back to 2007, only a year after other U.S. cities like Ann Arbor, MI put plans down to try out LED lighting. In 2010, the Department of Energy announced that Seattle would be leading the national charge in replacing all streetlights with LEDs. Three years later, we’re ahead of schedule and much of the nation has followed suit, and while there is some resident-based push-back against the lights for being too bright and disruptive, the general consensus, especially among the greener-minder among us, is that these new lights are generally a good thing.

And the movement is picking up momentum internationally as well. It was just announced this week that Buenos Aires, the second largest city in South America, will replace 70% of its streetlights with LED technology, in an effort to cut energy consumption citywide by 50%. Philips has been chosen as the corporate contractor for the project, and have already replaced 10,000 of the total 91,000 street lights expecting upgrades. Having just visited Buenos Aires last year, I can personally attest that it is a beautiful city and that much of its charm comes from its old world, European design scheme, an aesthetic that surely spreads to its street lights. However, I can also say that much of the city felt particularly dark at night, and that as a tourist, I certainly would have appreciated a bit more light to navigate by. Philips has given themselves three years to complete the project, and the city of Buenos Aires hopes to save up to $180 billion annually by switch to LED.

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