March 3, 2009 Man’s primal fear of the darkness has helped spawn cities that are illuminated by massive numbers of streetlights – so many in fact that they represent almost 40 percent of a typical city’s electricity spending. While energy efficient LED streetlights have helped cut that figure considerably, the integration of intelligent management systems should help drive it down even further. LED exterior lighting manufacturer BetaLED is pursuing this avenue by pitting two leading forms of lighting control systems against each other in a test to discover which system produces the biggest reduction in operating and energy costs.

Eleven LEDway streetlights were installed in Sturtevant, Wisconsin, and were outfitted with either a power line communication system (like that used in the Echelon LonWorks system) or wireless radio frequency (RF) system as part of a side-by-side demonstration of lighting control technologies available for LED streetlights.

Although the two independent lighting control systems are designed primarily to lower operating costs, they use different technology to realize results. The power line system communicates over the same wires that deliver power to each fixture to monitor and control streetlights equipped with specially designed hardware and software, while the RF control system uses a wireless mesh network to transmit information to a remote source.

Data such as energy usage, operating hours, and traffic patterns may be collected from both systems and analyzed to identify specific streetlights that can be dimmed, reducing energy usage and cost. Each individual fixture can be monitored and accessed from anywhere in the world by logging on to a specially designed, secure Website.

Milwaukee based We Energies is taking part in the evaluation, testing the remote access and monitoring capabilities of each system as well as calculating reduced energy and maintenance costs presented by LED technology compared to existing streetlighting options.

Who will come out on top in this no-holds-barred fight for supremacy in the lighting control system field? We’ll have to hold our breath until the winner is announced.

Darren Quick