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How LEDs Re-Illuminate the Urban Night Sky

Forbes Magazine reflects on the importance and impacts of light-emitting diode (LED) lights as more cities replace their traditional streetlamps with LEDs.
September 19, 2014, 8am PDT | Maayan Dembo | @DJ_Mayjahn
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Los Angeles's Bureau of Street Lighting has been busy in the last five years, spending $57 million to replace 155,000 streetlamps with light-emitting diode (LED) lights. With 60,000 more to go, most of them being tricky decorative lights, the city will spend $50 million more. Los Angeles is at the forefront of an often overlooked and seldom discussed factor of urbanization, light pollution.

With more cities and businesses requiring light for commercial or safety purposes, the effects of lighting can lead to surges in electricity consumption, destruction of environment and wildlife, and elimination of the starry nights that have inspired humanity for thousands of years.

A recent article in Forbes Magazine by Ucilia Wang focuses on the importance and potential impacts of lighting cities with LEDs. In recent years, LEDs have proven to more cost effective than regular high-pressure streetlamps, as they "last three to four times longer and produce two to three times more light per watt, delivering anywhere from 30% to 70% in annual electricity savings...they’re also far more programmable and connect more efficiently with radio and sensor chips to create citywide wireless networks to monitor crime, power outages and water main breaks and coordinate disaster relief."

Wang also explains how LED streetlamps can use less light by connecting to motion sensors, and thus eliminating waste. On average, forty percent of any given city's electricity needs powers street lighting, and nearly fifty percent of that is wasted. Aiming to solve this problem, the Danis Outdoor Lighting Lab, or DOLL Lab, located outside of Copenhagen, is already pioneering motion-sensing LED streetlamp experiments in their living lab.

As previously covered in Planetizen, changing from traditional streetlamps to LED lights not only saves municipalities millions each year, but also benefits cinematography.

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Published on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 in Forbes Magazine
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