Green Lanterns: Which Cities Lead the Way With LED Streetlamps?

Bad drivers and good energy designers alike have a thing for urban streetlights

Though they may go unnoticed by most, us bad drivers have a special affection for streetlights. If you’re like me, and you occasionally forget to turn on your headlights because you learned to drive on a car that lit them automatically and turning them on yourself seems really complicated, streetlights may be all that stand between you and an accident. Cities all over the world are having the same bright idea: Installing super efficient street lighting saves both energy and money (not to mention lives), making it a win-win for everyone.

Austin, Texas. Despite being one of the country’s reddest states, Texas is also one of its greenest. So it’s no big surprise that Austin, ranked by clean tech consultancy firm Clean Edge as the tenth greenest city in the country and described as a “true center of innovation,” is replacing 35,000 outdated streetlights with energy efficient LED Roadway Luminaires from Cooper Lighting. The project is expected to save the city $200,000 annually in energy costs.

Portland, Oregon. Is it really any surprise that Portland jumped on the green street lighting bandwagon? In January, Portland General Electric announced that it would switch 25,000 high-power sodium lights to more efficient LEDs. With funding from federal grants, the new lights will cut the city’s street lighting energy use by 60 percent. Once Portland has been retrofitted with the new technology, PGE will move onto other Oregonian cities like Oregon City, Molalla, and Gladstone.

Catasauqua, Pennsylvania. It’s not just the big cities upgrading their lighting systems. In this Allentown, PA suburb, public and private grants are funding streetlights that combine LED technology with solar power. There are only a few lamps up so far, but Sharon Davis of the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce hopes it’s just the start. “We’d like to put more up when funding becomes available,” she says.

Shenzhen, China. Chinese cities like Shanghai may be setting records for their air pollution levels, but that doesn’t mean the country isn’t look for solutions. In October 2011, in the southern city of Shenzhen, more than a million high-efficiency LED bulbs were installed in more than 10,000 streetlights along 75 miles of roads. The bulb’s manufacturer, Kingsun Optoelectronic Co. Ltd., estimates an energy reduction of 60 percent. (By December 2012, Shenzhen was beat by Chongqing, home to China’s largest LED streetlamp installation of more than 1.9 million bulbs in 20,000 lights on 119 streets.)

The Netherlands. Rotterdam-based designer Daan Roosegaarde is going further than just installing some energy efficient bulbs. In collaboration with European road engineering company Heijmans Infrastructure, Roosegarde is merging high efficiency technology with an incredible creative wit to build the world’s first Smart Highway. The project will incorporate a number of wacky/high tech (depending on your perspective) elements, including foto-luminising powder to illuminate a road’s twists and turns, and temperature sensitive paint that will provide glowing warnings of dangerous weather conditions.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user gabesk

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