UAF takes a look at LED streetlights
By Jesse Hoff
Sun Star Contributor
In an effort to save energy, UAF is considering replacing campus street lights with Light Emitting Diode (LED) fixtures. Outdoor lights are being replaced with LEDs across the nation because, despite their higher initial cost, they last longer and are about 50 percent more efficient than traditional lighting fixtures.
On a campus that has more than 85 days a year with less than eight hours of sunlight, exterior lighting is a big part of UAF’s energy consumption. According to Facilities Services, outdoor lighting uses about 30 percent of the power plant’s output. “We have about 1,000 exterior lights,” said UAF’s Stephen Gemmell, a senior electrical facilities engineer.
UAF’s history with LEDs started in the late 1990s when they were used to light emergency telephones around campus. Since then, Facilities Services has installed LEDs in several university locations. They are used to light pathways at the Davis Concert Hall and the Reichardt Building. In 2009, LED conversions were done at the east entrance of Lola Tilly and the North bike path between North Tanana Drive and Farmers Loop. This January, an LED street light was installed as a test at the intersection of Tanana Loop West and Yukon Drive.
Facilities Services is interested in using LED fixtures in street lights, but is approaching the plan cautiously. UAF currently has more than 100 street lights. In comparison the city of Anchorage expects to spend $2.2 million to replace 16,000 street lights with LED’s. They anticipate the conversion will save the city $360,000 a year.
Part of the university’s deliberation is evaluating the effectiveness of LED’s in the interior’s winter temperatures. “They were having some issues with de-icing and brightness in cold weather, last time I heard,” said ASUAF Sustainability Director Mike Golub.
“I don’t think you’ll have to worry about cold, with what I’ve seen through my experiments. Cold is always a good thing for [LED] performance. You’ll get more lumens and more life,” said Mark Youmans, an application engineer at Cree Inc. Cree is an LED component manufacturer that, since 2007, has been collaborating with a number of Alaskan cities on LED conversion.
The city of Valdez recently began working with the company to convert all 343 of its street lights to LED technology.
Fairbanks is also making the switch. Fairbanks’ facilities manager and LED project manager Phil Sanders estimated that the city already has approximately 2700 exterior LEDs installed, including many near the Carlson Center. Sanders has not experienced any significant problems with ice buildup and expects to get over 100,000 hours of useful life out of the new fixtures. He also likes the way they look. “I think the lighting looks cleaner and better with the LEDs,” Sanders said.
Gemmell said Facilities Services is reluctant to buy into LED “hype.” In October the department was advised by the State of Alaska that current LED technology, when used in retrofitted high pressure lighting systems, does not meet National Highway Standards. “Part of my job is to look at liabilities,” he said. “We don’t necessarily want to be the testing ground for all this and get the first lawsuit.”