“It’s mind blowing. Basically the whole lighting industry is being reinvented with solid state lighting.”
Robert Sardinsky, President, Rising Sun Enterprises, Energy Efficienct Lighting Specialists
Light Emitting Diodes in Focus
LEDs, or light emitting diodes, are twice as efficient as compact fluorescents, and use a tenth the energy of incandescents for the same amount of light. While incandescent lamps give off 90% heat and 10% light, nearly all energy delivered to an LED is converted by pushing electrons through semiconductors that electroluminesce to create light. When powered, the diodes release energy with photons. There is no burning gas, no filament to fail.
LEDs have other benefits: They are directional so they need less reflector to beam their light. There is no mercury. On/off cycles seem not to matter to quality LED bulb life and normal degradation of output. In terms of efficacy, incandescents produce 10 – 17 lumens per watt; CFLs 60 – 70. LEDs have attained 112, with expectations of 125 - 150. They are also more durable, can last for 100,000 hours, and are less temperature sensitive.
Solid state lighting has been contemplated for a century; early research dates back to 1907 in England. The first LED was developed by a Russian inventor in 1929. The first field observations of electroluminescence in organic materials were in 1950s. When current is applied, they give off light. Organic LEDs – known as OLEDs – have an emissive electroluminescent layer, a film of organic compounds.
Today, by industry accounts, there is “breakneck-speed improvements” in LED performance. This is driving down costs and expanding the applications for LEDs. While promising, clearly there is additional progress required for the transformation envisioned.
Some applications are ready for cost-effective deployment. Parking structures may be best: in these applications, LED fixtures met and exceeded the light output and efficiency levels of their metal halide, high pressure sodium, and induction counterparts, with more uniform light distribution.
For commercial and institutional properties, LEDs do not yet seem to make sense in commercial troffers, the standard 2*4 fluorescent lighting fixtures. Nor do they seem to make sense in most PAR (parabolic aluminized reflector) applications or screw in applications, with prohibitive costs allowing their use only in specific applications. But stay tuned!
Streetlights are in question, with a range of performances of manufacturers. Examine the product carefully is what analysts suggest. Many new installations will also provide performance insights.
LED linear tube (or “linears”) are not currently positioned to displace linear fluorescents. DOE finds in 2011 that, “LED replacement products have improved in light output and efficacy but do not appear to provide equivalent light output, color quality, distribution, or cost-effectiveness, compared to four-foot linear fluorescent lamps.”
The U.S. DOE commissioned the ongoing “CALiPERS” study on LEDS to measure annual performance. In its early years, the results were not good with 50% of reporting LEDs underperforming. A quarter of the sample did not reach 1,000 hours without significant light output degradation. But each year, the data shows performance improvements, better efficiency and less degradation. LEDs are spectrally tunable; the brightest LEDs are blue light. Yellow phosphors from Chinese rare earth metals adjust the color.
In early February, at a DOE workshop on transformations in solid state lighting, it awarded several LED and OLED companies organizations for R&D gains. Osram was recognized for its 2*2 fluorescent fixture retrofit; Philips for its family of lamps; Cree, Inc. for its high efficiency “driver” to optimize overall performance. Rensselaer Polytechnic was recognized for its work improving the color rendering of LEDs; an under-cabinet OLED system was awarded. There’s lots of going on from zinc oxide wires to piezo-photometric effects. (See Piezoelectricity, ENN V11#18)
But here’s the rub: LEDs are generally 10 – 20 times the cost of their incandescent ancestry. They are twice the cost of CFLs or more. To retrofit an average home with LEDs might cost $2,500, versus $100 - 200 for incandescents. That’s a big jump. All the while, manufacturers and advocates are calling LEDs “the world’s cheapest light bulbs” at $30 a pop! Certainly their lifecycle economics are most attractive when maintenance costs for lamp replacements are avoided.
Which manufacturers are producing the best products? The jury appears to be out on this, with little field experience. The biggest players, like GE, provide consumer warranties and thus confidence. GE claims that its 100+ year run in the lighting industry makes it uniquely qualified to be an LED industry leader. Its warranty return rate of 0.05% for more than 25 million linear feet of LED lamps is strong testament. To its credit, GE has “fielded” more than 6 million LED traffic signals.
The Carbon War Room, and Shipping
Sir Richard Branson is known for many things: records, balloons, airlines, and now the Carbon War Room. It’s a philanthropic organization backed by Branson and headed by Jigar Shah, founder of SunEdison and its no-money-down, solar leases. Branson believes that 50% of the climate problem can be addressed with existing technologies. Doing so is the largest wealth creation opportunity of our time.
Among other things, the Carbon War Room has hosted the “Oscars of Carbon Reduction.” Germany won the first Gigaton Award for its development of clean energy. Shah and company are fighting the war on carbon emissions in several ”theaters” including green capital, renewable aviation fuels, and shipping.
Large seaborne tankers and freighters move 80 – 90% of goods around the world. The 90,000 marine vessels that ply the high seas have the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions footprint equivalent to the sixth largest national emitter. Only China, the U.S., Russia, India, and Japan emit more GHGs than shipping. In 2007, shipping was responsible for 1.12 billion metric tonnes of emissions (1.1 gigatons), equivalent to the annual exhaust of 205 million cars, about the number of registered passenger vehicles in the United States.
This emission level is approximately 3% of the global total. According to the Pew Center, this will double by 2050 if business as usual continues. Of the total ton miles of international shipping, shipping of crude oil and oil products accounts for 35%, dry cargoes 31%, iron ore 15%, grain 6%, and bauxite 1%.
Branson is promoting ship efficiency standards, others are working on ratings. Health savings have been analyzed in Denmark. It is an untapped area; the lack of efficiency gains in the past 25 – 30 years spells opportunity. The new fleet of Boeing 787 airliners, for perspective, are 20% more efficient than their predecessors. In some instances, new and efficient ships can pay back in three years thanks to reduced fuel costs.
More efficient operations include speed reduction, optimized routing, weather routing, decreased port time (“cold-ironing” in port in which the ship is connected to shore power and thus turns off its engines), hull design, anti-fouling coatings, propeller designs, sails (both solid wings and towing kites), waste heat recovery, and solar panels for on-board electricity. The European Union is considering requiring lower sulfur fuels.
Bloomberg News presents an optimistic perspective, reporting that the United States is more energy independent than it has been in 20 years. Our supply side is strong. This past year, the U.S. produced 81% of the energy used due to increased oil and gas production, and recession that lessened demand, particularly for transportation fuels. This strengthened position is being called a “positive shock” for trade and national security, giving Washington “more maneuverability.”
The last time the U.S. was energy independent was in 1952. While the country imported some petroleum then, the country’s exports, including of coal, more than offset its imports. The Arab oil embargo in 1973 raised the issue of how vulnerable our society had become to geopolitics. Nevertheless, our dependence grew and our independence compromised.
Good news: U.S. energy self-sufficiency has been steadily rising since 2005. Now, “the U.S. has reversed a two-decade-long decline in energy independence, increasing the proportion of demand met from domestic sources.” Domestic crude oil production rose 3.6% last year to an average 5.7 million barrels a day. Within three years, domestic output could reach 7 million barrels a day. North Dakota is “ground zero” of the oil boom, now the fourth largest oil-producing state, behind Texas, Alaska, and California.
Natural gas output climbed to 22.4 trillion cubic feet in 2010. The U.S. may overtake Russia as the world’s largest energy producer in the next eight years. The transformation could result in the country becoming the world’s top energy producer by 2020.
In addition to people driving less, the efficiency of the average U.S. passenger vehicle has also helped. Average fleet fuel economy increased to 29.6 miles per gallon in 2011 from 19.9 mpg in 1978. And this will continue: Automakers will raise the fuel economy of the vehicles they sell in the U.S. to a fleetwide average of 54.5 mpg by 2025 under an agreement last year with the Obama Administration..
Biggest Green Power Purchases
The EPA’s quarterly ranking of corporations that purchase green power puts Intel and Kohl’s in first and second place. Walmart, Whole Foods, and Johnson & Johnson round out the top five. Walmart went from 15th place to third in a year, largely due to onsite renewable power generation, increasing its renewable energy share from 8% to 28%.
For the fourth consecutive year, Houston was the biggest buyer of clean energy among local governments in the U.S. Thirty-three percent of Houston's energy comes from wind farms in West Texas. Now it has its sights set on increasing the share to 50%. Kudos to the Lone Star State: the top three municipalities in the renewable energy arena are Houston, Austin, and Dallas.
Greenpeace’s Cool IT Leaderboard tracks 21 information technology companies and their use of green energy for their own operations as well as advocating for policies that promote clean energy use worldwide. It gave Google top rank this year, followed by Cisco, Ericsson, and Fujitsu.
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s “Green Scores” ranks 1,000+ configurations of model year 2012 cars sold. On February 7th, at greenercars.org, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released its 14th annual comprehensive environmental rankings showing how these offerings stack up.
This year, ACEEE ranked the Mitsubishi i-MIEV, all electric as the greenest car in America, topping the Honda Civic Natural Gas that held the spot for eight years. The i-MIEV got the highest score since the rankings began in 1998. It gets combined city and highway mileage equivalent of 112 per gallon. The Civic improved its fuel efficiency, and tied the Nissan Leaf for second place. The Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, and Smart For Two were also in the top six.
In Canada, Bullfrog Power has teamed up with General Motors to provide a power option for your Volt. Pay $198 more and the car’s power will be certified from 100% wind and hydro resources for two years.
The U.S.DOE has announced a new Energy Innovation Hub for battery development (electrochemical energy storage) for transportation and grid applications, funded with $120 million over five years.
PACE is a potentially game changing energy efficiency and renewable generation financing mechanism. Local governments arrange financing for their home and business property owners by placing liens on properties that are paid off through the property tax payments. The rub? PACE liens subordinate mortgages, a situation that has the banking industry up in arms.
As many know, and despite its promise, PACE was all but shut down in the summer of 2010 by the FHFA, the regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. FHFA’s legal counsel advised lenders to steer clear of PACE encumbrances. Except in isolated cases, residential PACE programs were abruptly halted. Eight lawsuits challenged the FHFA, claiming that the agency has failed to follow the federal administrative procedures. This is within the rights of local government, plaintiffs pleaded. FHFA sought a dismissal of the suits, which was denied by the court.
Now the FHFA Rulemaking Process begins. The United States District Court in Oakland, California found that the FHFA violated the federal Administrative Procedures Act when it issued its July 6, 2010 statement that prohibits Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other government sponsored enterprises that it regulates from buying residential mortgages with PACE assessments.
The PACE Rulemaking procedure order by the U.S. District Court in Oakland, CA began January 26, 2012 and extends until March 26, 2012.
This is the opportunity to challenge the FHFA’s ban on residential PACE programs by explaining the extensive public benefits of PACE programs, defending the right of state and local governments to establish them, addressing the FHFA’s objections to PACE programs, and suggesting a rule the FHFA should establish that will allow residential PACE programs to proceed. For more information, see PACENow.org.