Australia’s first LED streetlight rollout – two years on

Sydney prides itself on its forward-thinking initiatives, and lighting is no exception; it was the first city in Australia to install LED streetlights in a $7 million, three-year project which saw 6500 conventional streetlights replaced with LED in a project that finished two years ago. Lux has caught up with the City of Sydney’s manager of city infrastructure and traffic operations, George Angelis, to find out more.

"LEDs are more reliable than conventional lamps, reducing the risk of outages, which is pretty important for Australia’s global city,"

George Angelis

Being an early adopter came with the challenge of putting forward a convincing case for LED lighting at a time when the technology was still unusual. The high cost made it hard to get people in the room to talk about it, but Angelis was convinced. ‘LEDs are more reliable than conventional lamps, reducing the risk of outages, which is pretty important for Australia’s global city,’ he says.

‘The LED lamps have a minimum functional life expectancy of at least 50,000 hours, far more than other luminaires. This means it will be about 12 years on average before we have to replace them due to fading brightness.’

Technologies were investigated from around the globe but while Angelis was looking into the latest developments in LED lighting in the United States and Europe, it wasn’t available in Australia.

‘Los Angeles was rolling out 10,000 lights and we had to query how they can do it, and why we couldn’t get the lights’ he says.

 

Improved visibility

Six manufacturers were invited to install luminaires for the first phase of trial which was run in Alexandria Park, Circular Quay (pictured), George Street, Kings Cross and Martin Place in 2011. These were Lightsense, Sylvania, Lighting Science, Ruud, Osram and GE. For the second phase Philips, We-Ef and iGuzzini installed luminaires with smart controls in a section of George Street.

To get on insight into how the trials were received, the city ran a public feedback survey in early 2011 at two of the trial locations.

The results revealed that more than 90 per cent of those surveyed found the new lighting appealing and three quarters said it improved visibility. So the project was put out to tender, and became a joint venture with GE and UGL.

 

Overcoming traffic controls

The retrofit started in Sydney’s central business district. The major challenge was arranging traffic controls for the retrofit to occur and applying for the licences required to occupy bus lanes.

‘Much of the work was carried out during the hours of darkness when the roads were quieter,’ says Angelis. This also allowed before-and-after light measurements to be recorded.

The retrofit included the instalment of ‘SmartPoles’. As well as luminaires, these innovative poles enable other devices, such as CCTV cameras, banners and signage to be mounted on them.

For a city which prides itself on its beauty, the poles have helped clear some of the ‘clutter’ which typically accumulates in a city. ‘SmartPoles with luminaires are located on many CBD streets and main streets in our villages,’ explains Angelis.

 

Big savings

As LED lighting technology uses less electricity and requires less maintenance, the City of Sydney now gets cheaper power bills for longer lasting lights.

"Smart LED technology is slowly being recognised in Australia – but it’s not considered by Australian standards. However, it’s now working with it"

George Angelis

It has been estimated the retrofit has saved nearly $800,000 a year in electricity bills and maintenance costs, and greenhouse gas emissions in City properties have been reduced by at least 40 per cent.

Angelis points out that the financial savings frees money up for other projects in the city. That could well come in handy for the next wave of smart investments.

At the time of the City of Sydney’s LED rollout, smart controls were too expensive for the benefits they give. But the last five years have changed the game.

‘Smart LED technology, which can control the intensity of the light which comes out, is slowly being recognised in Australia – but it’s not considered by Australian standards. However, it’s now working with it,’ explains Angelis.

‘We’ve trialled some smart lights in George Street and all these lights have the availability to evaluate effectiveness. From an asset management point of view is very advantageous; generally LEDs don’t generally fail, but it’s good to know when the lights are out and need replacing or repairing.’