We have some serious issues to discuss. Many people believe that LED technology is the lighting of the future. LED lights are far more energy efficient, distribute a clearer light and even require less maintenance over time! Recently, however, there have been some controversies surrounding these lights as they are increasingly used for streetlights in cities around the United States.
One such controversy has occurred in Baltimore, which has recently begun a three year project transitioning to energy-saving LED streetlights. According to the Baltimore Sun, converting the 70,000 streetlights from sodium vapor to LED lights will save the city of Baltimore approximately $1.9 million in electricity and about a quarter of a million in maintenance. Controversy has arisen around this transition as some residents complain that their streets are not as well lit with the LEDs. Ted Atwood, the director of Baltimore’s Department of General Services, explains that the difference residents have complained about with the new LED lights is due to the fact that sodium vapor lights are less controlled, and spill over a larger area. However, LED lights can be adjusted to spread an equal amount of light, and the difference will be remedied as workers return to these areas and redirect the bulbs or change the lenses to adjust the distribution of the light. Once these alterations are made, I believe that the switch will have an overwhelmingly positive effect on the city as they can allocate the funds they save to other departments.
Another controversy was explored by a study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The study suggests that switching to more energy-efficient LED streetlights may change the color of light pollution. The change in light pollution, or skyglow as it is sometimes called, may negatively affect nocturnal wildlife according to the study. While the potentially harmful change in skyglow is not definitively linked to damaging environmental effects, the leading researcher Christopher Kyba of the Free University in Berlin recommends that further research is done before more cities switch to LEDs.
So, to LED or not to LED? That seems to be the question. While the potentially negative shift in skyglow is possible when cities like Baltimore make widespread changes to LED streetlights, there are more options for those looking to light smaller things — say, a tennis court. More and more people are switching or resorting to LED lighting for their projects as they are still one of the most energy and cost efficient options.
Learn more about LEDs.