published Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Cutting-edge lighting system to save money, increase safety

Robert Edwards, right, and Jim Meyer of Ace Electric install decorative post lights at Coolidge Park that use energy-efficient induction lights controlled by radio transmitters. Those lights and new LED lights are designed and manufactured by Global Green Lighting in Soddy-Daisy.
Robert Edwards, right, and Jim Meyer of Ace Electric install decorative post lights at Coolidge Park that use energy-efficient induction lights controlled by radio transmitters. Those lights and new LED lights are designed and manufactured by Global Green Lighting in Soddy-Daisy.
Photo by John Rawlston.

A local company is installing cutting-edge radio-controlled lights in Coolidge Park this week, slashing lighting costs and energy consumption by about 50 percent.

Expand technology like Global Green Lighting's beyond Coolidge to the rest of the city, and Chattanooga could save $1.5 million annually, according to government officials.

"That may come in time. We'll have to wait and see," said Dan Johnson, chief of staff for Mayor Ron Littlefield. "This wasn't designed to be a test, but it can act as one."

Global Green Lighting has brought its manufacturing operation to Chattanooga from China to tap into environmentally friendly projects. A large chunk of the funding for these lighting initiatives comes from federal stimulus money, which requires at least half of a product be made domestically. So, the company left China and brought about 80 jobs to the Chattanooga area.

The city decided to upgrade park lighting after a March 19 incident in which shots were fired as police tried to break up a group of about 300 youths.

Light is the best deterrent to crime, Johnson said, so the city is paying $251,695 -- $211,695 of which is covered by the Office of Sustainability to retrofit lights -- to brighten the park.

The city wanted a lighting system police easily could control that would mesh with the network the city already has. They found a quick, easy way of getting that here in town.

Global Green Lighting had been working for years with Raleigh, N.C.,-based Sensus, a utility infrastructure company, to develop a system that happened to be just what Chattanooga was looking for.

The lighting system can be controlled anywhere with Internet access, officials said. The lights can be dimmed, turned to full brightness and flashed as needed, but the majority of the time they'll take care of themselves.

They can be programmed to run at 25 percent brightness at dusk, 50 percent at night, 100 percent as the park closes, and whatever levels in between the city deems appropriate.

If a light burns out, the system will run a diagnostic test, sending a report of where the problem occurred and why within 15 minutes of the error.

"It's really high-tech stuff," said Global Green owner Don Lepard.

Lucky for Lepard, Global Green didn't have to reinvent the wheel to put this technology together. Sensus already had a radio-controlled metering system developed that adapted well to lighting.

"It's not like we're starting from scratch," Lepard said. "We took a tested technology and applied it to a new market."

Global Green is installing induction lights in the park, a lighting technology relying on magnets and microwaves to illuminate bulbs.

Right now, induction lighting coupled with the radio technology is hugely cost-effective, Lepard said. An LED light -- a popular alternative technology -- costs about $1,300. An induction light comes in at $425.

"It's cheeper cost, but it gives you the same as LED light," Lepard said.

He expects LED technology to catch up to induction lighting within the next decade -- induction development has plateaued while LEDs have been developing rapidly -- but induction is a great way to bridge the gap between lighting of the past and the future.

It may not be cost-effective to light an entire city with LED technology, Lepard explained, but using LEDs in main areas while putting up induction lights on secondary roads can be a cost-effective compromise.

Global Green is hoping to continue working with Chattanooga, and it's already outfitting other cities across the country. Baltimore is up next with a 70,000 light order, according to the company.

Lepard said he has been able to move manufacturing to Chattanooga largely without raising costs.

Quality problems abound with Chinese manufacturers, he said. On top of that, the federal government charges a 6.8 percent duty tax on fully-constructed goods being imported and a less than 2 percent tax on the individual parts.

Ultimately, Lepard attributes a lot of his success to the opportunities given him by Chattanooga.

Selling a city on lights in a showroom is one thing, but being able to point to what they expect to be a successful first deployment makes the sale all the more convincing.

"We're trying to break into a market that's controlled by giants, and the city's giving us a chance to do that," he said. "The city of Chattanooga has been behind us. They want to see us take this technology and make it grow."

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NorthChatter said...

I have been watching them install these lights this week. They look great and emit a nice, bright, clear light (unlike a lot of the current globe lights which yellow quickly, thus losing a lot of their brightness).

Fingers crossed that these do well long term, it could be a big boon for this start up company, which will translate to more jobs for the area (always nice to hear of the rare occasion of bringing back business from China)

July 21, 2011 at 12:25 a.m.
NoMyth said...

Good story, but missing one key piece of information...how many years will it take for the energy savings from these fixtures to match their 252k cost????? Taxpayers need to know these things!!!!

July 21, 2011 at 10:22 p.m.
stillamoc said...

Saw an article last week that stated the savings... The cost was shared over three areas. $211,000 came from the Federfal stimulous funding, and the cities sustainability office, ( to lower the USA depenandcy on foreign oil.) $20,000 came from the City of Chattanooga, $20,000 came from the county. The annual savings on energy and mainteence is $57,000. $251,000 / $57,000 = 4.4 years ROI, and the savings is $604,000 over a 15 year period. ( estimated life fo the lights)

Not bad for spending tax payers money wouldn't you say?

the total cost to the city and county is $40,000 thats less than 7 months payback for the local tax dollars.... Sure wished we (tax payers) could fund more projects that pay for themseleves

July 21, 2011 at 11:25 p.m.
NoMyth said...

Thanks stillamoc. If indeed the ROI is less than 5 years, this is a great investment....much better than just about all taxpayer funded projects.

July 25, 2011 at 7:31 a.m.
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