The Cost Factor

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      The Cost Factor
                                                                                          high intensity discharge (HID) lamps,
                                                                                          making the use of LEDs—with their
                                                                                          vibration resistance and longer life­
        By JAmES BRodRick                                                                 time—an appealing solution. This
                                                                                          Gateway     demonstration—a        col­
        When it comes to the tantalizing        look at the total cost over time rather   laboration between the Minnesota
      question of when we’ll see a “tip­        than just the initial outlay.             Department of Transportation, U.S.
      ping point” for solid-state lighting,       For example, a recent Gateway           Federal Highway Administration,
      where large numbers of consum­            demonstration at a California super­      BetaLED and DOE—will measure not
      ers begin to choose it over other         market found the payback for bi­          only energy savings but also lumen
      options, the U.S. Department of           level LED parking lot lights to be less   depreciation and deferred mainte­
      Energy (DOE) has a unique per­            than five years, with energy savings      nance over the course of three years.
      spective, thanks in large part to its     close to 70 percent. The incumbent        Initial results show energy savings of
      CALiPER and Gateway programs.             metal halide lights drew an aver­         12-18 percent, and the significant dif­
        CALiPER conducts unbiased per­          age of 346 watts. In contrast, the        ference in expected lifetime means
      formance testing of off-the-shelf         LED lights (which reduced their out­      the anticipated maintenance cost
      LED products, while Gateway show­         put when no motion was detected           savings is substantial.
      cases their use in real-life settings.    around them) drew an average of
      Together, these programs give DOE         149 watts on high power and 52            SEVERAL STAGES
      access to a wide range of solid-          watts on low power. Compared with           It is very likely that we will not see
      state lighting products and data          metal halide, the LED lights cost         one big tipping point that marks the
      that provide a clear and overarching
      view of the technology as a whole,
      as well as a pretty good indication       The final stage in consumer
      of where it’s headed.
        One thing that’s become evident
                                                acceptance of solid-state lighting
      is that for certain applications, the     will come when the initial cost drops to
      tipping point for solid-state light­
                                                a level that’s comparable with competing
      ing may already be upon us. How
      can that be, when—as with any             technologies, which many expect to
      emerging technology—the cost              happen between 2020 and 2025
      still remains relatively high? It’s
      because other factors, such as
      maintenance considerations, can           $278 less per year to operate, when       beginning of a massive consumer
      tip the scale toward LED solutions        maintenance and replacement costs         migration toward solid-state lighting.
      when potential maintenance sav­           were also taken into consideration.       Instead, we’ll probably see a series
      ings are considered along with the          The potential for significant main­     of incremental tipping-point stages.
      unique advantages of LEDs.                tenance savings also played a key         The first stage, which is already in
        Take outdoor area lighting, for         role in the decision to use LED light­    progress, involves lighting applica­
      instance. There, maintenance not          ing for the recently rebuilt I-35W        tions where maintenance is costly or
      only is costly, but also can be dif­      Bridge in Minneapolis, MN (LD+A,          difficult, and where the long life and
      ficult. That’s why solid-state lighting   December 2008). The constant              low maintenance of LEDs can signifi­
      is starting to pique the interest of      vibration caused by bridge traffic        cantly lower the bottom line.
      retailers, facilities managers, munic­    and wind is known to significantly          The next stage is just beginning.
      ipalities and other stakeholders who      reduce the lifetime of the incumbent      In some applications, such as LED

                                                                                                                 LED WATCH

downlights, directionality, dimma­         more details on these Gateway           being quite good and others likely to
bility and other advantages give           projects, visit     disappoint the unwary consumer.
the new technology a distinct leg          gatewaydemos_results.html.                To keep up with the latest infor­
up that compensates for prices that                                                mation on solid-state lighting, go to
are still comparatively high.              WidESPREAd USE                          DOE’s CALiPER and Gateway Web
  Other stages will follow, as solid-        Continuing improvement in per­        sites,
state lighting technology improves         formance coupled with steadily fall­    html and­
and costs come down to the point           ing prices will drive the phased        waydemos.html, where you can find
where energy savings alone can             acceptance of solid-state lighting      helpful background material as well
make up for any remaining price pre­       by consumers, to the point where        as current results and reports. From
mium. Bear in mind that, as a still-       eventually the cost will be low         DOE’s vantage point, the bottom line
emerging technology, solid-state           enough and the energy savings           is that solid-state lighting is moving
lighting is a moving target that’s         high enough that LEDs will be com­      in a positive direction at a fast pace.
continually getting better, as well        petitive based solely on those two      The technology is steadily improv­
as cheaper. Haitz’s Law, which is          considerations. The final stage in      ing, while the cost continues to drop.
based on observations over the past        consumer acceptance of solid-state      It won’t be long before the combina­
40 years, holds that over the course       lighting will come when the initial     tion of energy savings and initial cost
of each decade, the light output of        cost drops to a level that’s com­       begins to tip the scale in a big way.
red LEDs increases 20-fold while the       parable with competing technolo­        It’s just a matter of time—probably
price decreases by a factor of 10.         gies, which many expect to happen       less time than you think.
That corresponds to a cost decrease        between 2020 and 2025.
of about 20 percent per year.                Meanwhile, there’s quite a ways to             James Brodrick is the light­
  This line of thinking is consistent      go-not only in terms of the technol­             ing program manager for the
with what we’re seeing through             ogy, but with regard to consumer                 U.S. Department of Energy,
the DOE CALiPER program. Based             education and awareness. We’re still    Building Technologies Program. The
on LED purchases associated with           at a point where misinformation and     Department’s national strategy to
CALiPER testing, performance trends        confusion about solid-state lighting    guide high-efficiency, high-perfor­
over the last five years show a steady     are rife, on both ends of the spec-     mance solid-state lighting products
increase in lamp efficacy from 20 to       trum—from those who think that LED      from laboratory to market draws on
100 lumens per watt, and a steady          products cost $1,000 per kilolumen,     key partnerships with the lighting
decrease in retail price in some typical   to those who enthuse that solid-state   industry, research community, stan­
good indoor lighting products from         lighting will solve all of our energy   dards organizations, energy-efficien­
about $500 per kilolumen a few years       problems within the next year.          cy programs, utilities and many other
ago to around $200 per kilolumen in          The truth lies somewhere in           voices for efficiency.
2008. The rate of decline in dollars per   between. Right now, there are
kilolumen is around 25 percent per         some applications where LEDs are
year, somewhat better than Haitz’s
original estimate for red LEDs.
                                           already competitive with the incum­
                                           bent technology—for example, LED
  Another Gateway example adds             downlights, which have shown
                                                                                     GREEN DESIGN,
further evidence: product reengi­          steady improvement in CALiPER               PROJECTS
neering between Phase II and Phase         testing and now can outperform
                                                                                    chEck oUT ThE LATEST
III of a streetlight demonstration in      incandescent, halogen and, in some         LiGhTinG TREndS
Oakland, CA, increased energy sav­
ings by 25 percent and reduced
                                           cases, even CFL fixtures. But even
                                           there, we find a wide range in terms      HOT TOpics
product costs by 34 percent. For           of quality, with some LED products

LD+A	June	2009	                                                                                                              17