The growth of LED lighting for cities worldwide

Lighting is becoming a prominent electric component used to illuminate cities worldwide. Public lighting accounts for nearly 50% of the electricity consumption in cities and 19% of global electricity use. The major sources of light that have been consistently used throughout the world are electrical filaments, High Pressure Sodium (HPS), plasma, incandescent lamps or gas which have not always been a sustainable option as they increase greenhouse gas emissions.

For such reasons and more, cities globally have recently shifted to sustainable lighting options. Solid State Lighting (SSL) which includes LEDs, OLEDs and PLEDs are slowly gaining prominence as the sustainable option replacing regular street lights, buildings lights, skylines and city lights. LEDs have other important implications such as “facilitating the transition to low carbon modes of transport and more efficient development patterns.  It can affect perceptions of safety and local character, and could therefore influence whether attempts to change mobility patterns (e.g. cycling) and land-uses (e.g. mixed use developments) are successful.  Images of cities and neighbourhoods at night may also be useful for engaging the public in a debate about urban lighting and for generating support for broader sustainability initiatives and behaviours.”

LED Street Lights

LEDs are largely being implemented in North American and European cities as a viable option to sustainably beautify the landscape. LED lights are also used as a form of art in America. For example, one of the most popular LED instalments would have to be the Empire State Building where LEDs were installed in 2012 lighting the skyline with “16 million colours”. It also facilitates communal gathering with light shows and other lighting exhibitions. Such events provide an opportunity for the public to take part in the transformation or LED-fication of their cities and voice their opinions or concerns on the issue.

There are some advantages to the transformation of conventional lighting system to LEDs and more cities should start to utilize it.

Advantages of installing LED lighting in cities

Various sources confirm that LEDs provide an extended lifetime in comparison with other types of lighting and are not easily fusible accounting to almost 50-70% of energy saving capacity. This long lasting facility will be very beneficial as street lights and buildings lights particularly during night-time when people require lights for safety, commuting and decorative purposes. This also saves lighting budget reducing conservation and maintenance remuneration costs. LEDs are also easily controllable and manageable by the authorities.

The European Union, for instance, aims to reduce around 20% of energy used for general lighting purposes by 2020 by adopting SSL and LED lighting technologies. This is a foreseeable objective as many parts of Europe specifically in England many cities have already started to use LEDs for functional purposes. The city of Birmingham in the UK has deployed the largest LED use in Europe so far with the instalment of numerous street lights and “50% expected energy savings leading to a £2m reduction in annual running costs.”

Hong Kong Public Lighting

LEDs have also been widespread in North American cities and states such as Seattle and the state of Iowa which is looking to “gradually replace the 44,000 streetlights it owns in communities throughout its Iowa service territory with lamps using LEDs.” The US Department of Energy and Municipal SCL has estimated that the replacement to LED from conventional lighting will save the City of Seattle $2.4 million annual energy and maintenance costs. Recognisable cities such as New York, Chicago, and Washington DC have already taken the initiative towards LED lighting in their respective cities.

Uses of LED in Public Spaces

LEDs are also being utilized to illuminate public spaces and to gain more attraction within cities. Two notable cities which have done this successfully are New York City in USA and Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

Eindhoven uses special lighting effects for many outdoor and public spaces, including buildings, parks, and art works, thereby earning the accolade of ‘City of Light.’” This city also held the first dynamically LED illuminated sports field stadium. The LEDs in Eindhoven are mostly sensor activated that save energy when it is not required or when there are no objects found in the city park. Philips is the major lighting company which is associated to transforming this city. The city stands exemplary in deploying innovative methods to use of lights in public spaces, with different forms of energy saving LED lighting techniques making use of colours, pedestrian friendly lighting in parks, floating luminaries in the Catharina Square and other such innovative design lighting techniques to beautify the cityscape.  

New York City is another exemplary example of creative ways in which LED lighting has been utilized in the city structure. Many public spaces around New York have completed LED installation. Recently, Central Park, East River Bridges and some roadways have completed street light fittings in the city. Some traffic signal lights also uses LEDs in New York City. The present LED Pilot Project has taken place in Central Park, the FDR Drive, East River Bridges with Necklace Lights, and The Long Island Expressway. These projects successfully display how LEDs can be used not only to enhance lighting in the city by saving electric consumption but also for decorative purposes through various methods of installation.

New York City Light

There are many other cities from Kolkata (India) to Quezon City (Philippines) and Glasgow (Scotland) which are making use of LED lighting. Although the concept is starting to gain importance in large cities worldwide, it is more so in the developed nations while the developing nations are yet to initiate the concept in a large scale.

Overall, LED-fication of cities is still in its nascent stage and the concept needs to be developed further to gain global prominence. Cities in developed countries such as North America and Europe have paved the way towards an investment in LEDs, showcasing many uses and features of sustainable lighting. It is imperative that developing nations follow by example to reduce carbon emissions (as the carbon footprint is remarkably more in the developing nations) and thereby contribute towards a sustainable world.