Blog: Andrew Brix

Tree Town's goal of moving to 20% percent renewable energy by 2015 makes it a LEEDer in the state's green movement these days (pun intended). Andrew Brix, energy programs manager for the city of Ann Arbor, talks this week on all things efficient and on how Michigan can become the next Sunshine State.

Post 2: The LED Revolution

In my previous post, I implied that technology is not the answer to our energy challenge. Or something like that, anyway. Of course, the answers are never that simple, and real life not only has shades of grey, it colors too!  However, for the time being, we are going to concern ourselves with only one normally dull color: white. What's so exciting about white?  It's that LED lighting?based around relatively new white LEDs?has the potential to save 25 percent of electricity used for lighting in the U.S over the next 20 years.

When I first learned about LED lighting back in 2005, white LEDs (light-emitting diodes) were still new to the lighting industry, and then-recent tests of LED lighting had been less-than-spectacular. But the potential was clearly there, and the city had previously had great success with LED traffic signals, so we starting testing LED streetlights around downtown Ann Arbor.

What's so great about LEDs? The short answer is they last longer and use less energy. As LEDs get less expensive, they are becoming the most economical choice in more and more lighting applications. As a bonus, they contain no mercury, and produce less heat than conventional lighting (that's part of being efficient).

For downtown streetlights in Ann Arbor, we're using half the energy as before (56 Watts vs. 120 Watts) and are projecting a ten-year lifetime rather than two years. The original test installation on Washington St., between Fourth Ave. and Fifth Ave. has now been in for over four years and has officially paid for itself! With the old metal halide fixtures, those bulbs would all have been changed twice now, but we haven't had to touch the LEDs yet. How many municipal employees does it take to change an LED light? None, it doesn't need changing! (Yet...obviously nothing lasts forever.)

Thinking about making the switch to LEDs yourself? You'll still have to do some homework and want to read a few reviews, especially if you haven't seen in person. The U.S. Department of Energy has some good information on LEDs, and what to look for in different applications. LEDs still cost more upfront than incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, so for those of you on a budget, Cree is giving away some of their excellent LR6 downlights?you can't beat that price! If you're still not ready to make the move to LEDs, go to compact fluorescents (CFLs) in the meantime to save energy and reduce those nasty CO2 emissions.

Finally, don't forget to have fun while you're saving the world!

Next:  Michigan: The Sunshine State