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Energy Efficient LED Streetlight Demonstration in San Jose To Use Intelligent Controls

The City of San Jose will soon embark on its second streetlight pilot using light-emitting diodes. The LED project is part of the city's Green Vision, a 15-year plan to promote environmentally sustainable practices and reduce energy use. (photos)

San Jose streetlight photo on EnergyPriorities.com

San Jose plans to convert 115 lights in the city's Hillview North neighborhood. (City of San Jose photo)

San Jose will convert 115 lights to energy-efficient, programmable LED lamps by June 2009, and is seeking funds from the stimulus package to install additional lights and control systems. The plan is to change all of the city's more than 62,000 streetlights to a new system by 2022.

The existing sodium-vapor streetlights, installed in the 1980s, consume a lot of energy. Last year the city spent almost $3.5 million to power its streetlights, which led the city to experiment with the unpopular idea of turning off hundreds of them, the San Jose Mercury News reported. But San Jose's goal is not only to reduce its energy costs.

San Jose motorists and pedestrians have long complained about the yellow, low-pressure sodium streetlights, which the Merc reported are easily confused with traffic signals, and distort colors. LEDs have been shown to cast a better quality of light, and are longer-lasting, so they're expected to reduce maintenance costs for the City. With the Lick Observatory located just east of the city, another goal is remote dimming to decrease light pollution.

The new streetlights will use lamps equipped with power line networking technology and segment controllers, so the streetlights can sense their environments and be controlled, monitored and dimmed from a distance.

"San Jose is working to show the world that environmental responsibility makes financial sense," said Chuck Reed, Mayor of the City of San Jose. "By transforming our streetlights, we help innovators create new industries and reduce the City’s own operating and maintenance costs."

The control network will provide real-time reporting on the status of the lights and early identification of problems. Future enhancements could include traffic intelligence programs to move traffic more efficiently.

LEDway Echelon streetlight photo on EnergyPriorities.com

The new streetlights will use LEDway lamps equipped with Echelon power line networking and segment controllers. (City of San Jose photo

San Jose's first LED demonstration project used lamps and control network provided by Relume Technologies, a Michigan-based company. The second pilot uses lamps from BetaLED embedded with Echelon power line signaling technology.

The CEO of San Jose-based Echelon, Ken Oshman, said the project is "a good example of how public and private partnership can drive solutions in the market. We are proud to assist San Jose in realizing its Green Vision by contributing to energy savings and reduced carbon dioxide emissions in our local community."

Streetlights consume 40 percent of an average city's annual operations budget, according to Echelon estimates. When the new lighting and control technology is fully deployed in the City, San Jose anticipates it will be able to reduce its energy use by almost 40 percent.

The city's long-term plan is to power its streetlights entirely from renewable sources, potentially via distributed solar modules installed on or near the lights.


It is great to see San Jose getting a start on LED conversion. Other cities have quite a lead on San Jose though.

One thing that is interesting to note is that the low pressure sodium lamps currently in use dissipate only 60 watts ... certainly a lot less than I had expected. A much larger savings would be obtained by every homeowner converting one or more bulbs in their homes ... preferably to LEDs. CFLs really are not a good solution long term.

There are other benefits to the LEDs, but I really wonder if one determined the overall energy savings after adding the infrastructure for the intercommunication network if there would be a net savings on the PG&E bill.

It does give Mayor Reed something to crow about and income for Echelon ...

It is great to see San Jose getting a start on LED conversion.

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Is San Jose worried about the intelligent controls being attacked by hackers?