LED lighting for cities

I’ve started to notice significant numbers of LED streetlights around my town. This makes me happy for a few reasons: the lights use less energy, they last longer, the color is more pleasant, and they dump less light overboard into the sky.

berlin

I was thinking of this when I saw a picture of Berlin taken at night. After all these years, you can still see the divide between the east and west. It’s nothing like North and South Korea, but still, what’s going on? Different kinds of lights originated with different governments long ago, and the difference persists. The orange lights in the east are sodium vapor streetlights (Natriumdampflampen!) whereas on the west they had the whitish mercury vapor lamps (Quecksilberdampflampen!).

It got me wondering what the US will look like five years from now as you fly across it at night. Perhaps the sickly orange grid (we like those sodium vapor lights too) will be replaced by a muted soft white lattice.

It’s easy to latch onto one version of a story and forget about it for a few years. For a long time LED lightbulbs and solar power were the fanciful dreams of tree huggers. While it’s true that they’re not going to free us from petroleum anytime soon, they are both making huge advances. Here is an encouraging report from Greentech Media: Four Charts That Prove the Future of Clean Energy Is Arriving. Once these technologies become good business choices on their own merits (that is, unsubsidized), they will blossom quickly.