Street lights posit a problem for TreeHuggers: they use electricity, even when there's no one nearby to benefit, but they make getting around at night much safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Seattle, it seems, may have the answer: solid-state LEDs.
SSLs produce a broad spectrum of light, so they don't need to be as bright to provide as much visibility. Simply put, they're more efficient. But before anyone goes around installing them on every block, hard evidence that they are up to the challenge is needed. To provide it, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) teamed up with Seattle City Light and the Seattle Department of Transportation in March, to test how solid-state LEDs (SSLs) would function in the urban setting.
The team conducted tests comparing a street with SSL lighting to the current system. A professional diver piloted a car equipped with light-reading instruments at 35mph; passengers performed object detection tests. Residents also walked the course and provided their opinions of the lights' performance.
Seattle isn't the only city doing tests like this; results from around the Northwest will be combined to help create a regional design guide for municipalities. Analysis by the NEAA and by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's 6th Power Plan, shows that if Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana all made the switch to solid-state street lighting, they could save enough energy to power 87,750 homes.
Here's hoping the tests went well, and that this technology lives up to the promise of safer, brighter, more efficiently-lit streets for our cities.