The city of Raleigh, NC has taken an interesting approach to reducing energy demands related to outdoor lighting. Recognizing that they spend a full 30 percent of their energy budget on running the 33,000 outdoor lights that amounts to a $4.2 million annual bill, they see tremendous potential for using LED (light emitting diodes) throughout the city.

And this will be no small task, as there are many types of lights used within the city’s borders, including streetlights, parkade lighting, parks, signal lights, sports fields, and building facilities. Lights come in all shapes and sizes, so retrofitting them all will take some time and no little financial commitment.

But Raleigh is committed to becoming the first "LED city" in the US and expects to reap significant financial and environmental savings, and to serve as a model for other cities throughout the country. It’s a bold move, but one that could have big payoffs.

Working with Cree, Inc., the City of Raleigh has developed a plan that will help them achieve their goal of becoming the first LED city. The plan includes documenting and planning the use of LEDs and analyzing the results, which will hopefully support future, larger-scale projects. Working for the next 18 months, Raleigh hopes to generate some significant findings that will shape how future projects in their city, as well as others nationwide, are conducted.

Savings are already being recorded as a result of this effort. In one parking garage project, LEDs are achieving energy savings greater than 40 percent. And more than energy savings, the city expects to cut maintenance costs, too. Since LEDs last 20 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, they require fewer changes, which means fewer man hours for regular bulb changes.

Additional benefits include reduced energy demands on local power facilities. What’s more LEDs have environmental boons since they create less light pollution. And because they are manufactured without mercury, which is necessary to create CFLs (compact fluorescent bulbs), they’re less toxic, too.

The LED City project was showcased at the recent Great Energy Efficiency Day (GEED) in Washington, DC.