Exhibition Place has presented many new technologies since it was established in 1904, but a new pilot project outside the Automotive Building is using 40-year-old technology to lessen Toronto’s energy impact: LED streetlights.
Actually, the age of the technology is only partially true. It’s only recently that LEDs have been able to display a full spectrum of colour, initially limited to a dull red or green glow from electronic devices or indicator lamps. Newish white LEDs are now exceptionally bright, and assembled into an array similar to the panels in the Dundas Square video boards, they can be used to light our streets at a much lower cost. Toronto’s twelve lamp standards consist of 117 LEDs, which give off a similar intensity as conventional streetlights, yet have a colder, bluer, more directional quality.
At a cost of $11 million annually, Toronto currently operates about 160,000 streetlights which make up a significant portion of the City’s energy usage. The implementation of LED lamps similar to those on display at Exhibition Place could slash the City’s street lighting electricity bill by half. Each LED streetlight costs about $1200 (and each LED about $2), but they allegedly last up to five times longer than conventional lights. The cost of replacement could potentially be recouped from the maintenance and electricity savings.
The pilot program is funded by the City-run Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) and the Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF). The TAF also funded the recent switch to LED traffic signals at a cost of $17 million. When Mississauga retrofitted their traffic signals with LEDs instead of incandescent halogen bulbs, they saved $500,000 in the first year following the conversion. If Toronto converted all of our streetlights to LED, this would not only drastically reduce operating and maintenance costs, but would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 18,000 tonnes. The low wattage of LEDs also make them great candidates for solar technology, though modifying streetlamps with solar panels is currently prohibitively expensive and they’d still need to draw power from the grid.
Toronto’s LED streetlight pilot program will run throughout the year so that the claims made by the manufacturer Leotek can be verified. Traditional filament lamps burn out quickly and are susceptible to vibration damage, while LEDs are semiconductor-based and tend to dim over time. Both types of fixture are susceptible to temperature fluctuations, which is why the city will be closely observing durability claims during the pilot project. LEDs are much more expensive per lumen, but have a significantly lower total cost of ownership—the LED streetlights are said to last twenty times longer than our existing fixtures.
The City hasn’t announced any further plans for when the pilot project ends, though Mayor Miller says he is “enthusiastic” about the prospect of streetlight conversion. Considering the strain our energy grid is under, we say it’s an imperative no-brainer.
Image: LEDs Magazine