May 1, 2013 – Vol.18 No.7
HOW A LIGHT BULB CAN CLOSE A POWER PLANT.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
They use technology from the 1930's. They flicker. They can hum. Sometimes they won't start up in the cold. They're hard to recycle. They can't be dimmed. They make people's flesh look less than flattering. They give some people headaches.They are everywhere: They account for more than half the world's total lighting.
They are out of date. It's time fluorescent tube light bulbs were replaced with something new, something better.
Though they are far more efficient than conventional incandescent bulbs, they still gobble up 200 terawatts of electricity every year in the US. That's about the output of 100 medium-sized power plants. Why so much? Because we've built so many buildings without natural daylighting. Because we have so many spaces and rooms within buildings that need artificial lighting even when the Sun is shining. Because we have so many, many of these buildings that are open for business, trade, work, services and occupancy that need to be illuminated, sometimes 24/7. The choice of lighting for those buildings is most often fluorescent.
The situation is just as bad globally. Nineteen percent of the world's energy consumption is by lighting of all kinds. Almost half of that is by tube fluorescent bulbs.
Fluorescent lights have been made more efficient over the decades with new bulb types, the addition of more efficient solid state ballasts, and the incorporation of reflectors. The best of the best fluorescent tube bulb now emits up to 100 lumens of light output per Watt of electricity. (Yet it's safe to say that most of those installed globally aren't the best and most efficient and produce less light for each Watt.)
Compared with only 15 lumens per Watt with conventional incandescent bulbs Thomas Edison would recognize, even the least efficient fluorescent tube lights save energy, but nothing like LED lights that now replace conventional incandescent and halogen bulbs. LEDs are saving up to 85 percent on energy consumption per bulb.
Already there are tube LED lights (TLED) on the market replacing fluorescent lights saving electricity. Yet real savings will occur in 2015 when a 200 lumens per Watt TLED lamp, now under development by Philips, is expected to hit the market. At twice the efficiency of the most efficient fluorescent now available (and MORE than twice for lesser efficient bulbs still in use), the payback period could be brief, perhaps less than a year depending on the initial cost.
At twice the efficiency, and if all the fluorescent tubes in the US were replaced with TLEDs, 100 terawatts of power would be saved. With 100 terawatts saved, 50 medium-sized power plants would no longer be needed.
With that in mind, head scratching at utility companies might come to some conclusions:
--- If an old dirty plant needed to be closed for environmental reasons, it might make more sense to give away thousands of TLEDS than to build a new power plant to replace the old;
--- If new generating capacity is needed to meet growing demand it, instead of investing in the new capacity it might make more financial sense to give away, for free, truck loads of TLEDS freeing up existing power for elsewhere;
--- And if enough users of conventional tube fluorescents switch to TLEDS to save money or reduce carbon footprint, power companies might find themselves generating more power than they need. Solution? Close a power plant.
Accountants at major commercial users of tube fluorescent lights will certainly be watching the introduction of TLEDs, as will their counterparts at the utility companies. Homeowners will be next to make the switch, cutting even more energy consumption on the grid.
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