LED Luminaires Guide Airports to Sustainability


LED Luminaires Guide Airports to Sustainability

In today’s challenging economy, it’s more important than ever for facility managers, owners and operators to reduce energy and maintenance costs. This is crucial in many industries but certainly in parking facilities where lights are often on 24/7.
Couple the challenges of operating a parking lot with the environmental footprint of an airport and there is a lot of room for reducing energy costs and consumption. These issues have been growing in importance for the aviation industry, in part due to government policy shifts and the public’s keen awareness of sustainable practices.
The nearly 3,000 airports in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) system are some of the largest and most visible public users of energy. Airports are one of the fastest growing segments of the transportation sector today. In fact, a Government Accountability Office report estimated that domestic air travel will grow at a rate of 3.6% annually through 2011.
And as air travel increases, despite significant progress in reducing impacts, aviation’s environmental footprint is also expected to grow. Although much of the environmental consequence of air travel occurs during the flight and outside an airport’s control, significant measures can be taken to better understand and reduce those impacts within an airport’s responsibility.
Energy is most often the second largest operating expense at an airport, exceeded only by personnel costs. As energy costs escalate, airport operations and maintenance costs grow, too. There is tremendous pressure on airport facility managers to reduce operational costs to help lower the bottom line for their airline tenants and to identify real, implementable actions. Fortunately, energy is a very controllable operating expense; with prudent, energy efficiency investments, airports can readily reduce operating costs from 10% to 30% annually, the Transportation Research Board says.
Some of the largest airports are aggressively implementing green measures to save energy costs and to generate favorable impressions among travelers. To further encourage sustainability, the FAA has developed the Voluntary Airport Low Emissions Program (VALE), a national effort to reduce ground emissions at commercial service airports in designated air quality nonattainment and maintenance areas and provides financial and regulatory incentives to airports to invest in proven low-emissions technology.
Today, airports that are implementing sustainable practices not only aid in improving environmental quality, but also are operating favorably as well, at reduced costs in terms of energy efficiency. One key to making day-to-day operations more energy efficient and more sustainable is through installation of exterior light-emitting-diode (LED) luminaires.
Parking Lot Illumination
In its “Lighting Handbook,” the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America recommends parking lots be lighted at an average of 1 foot-candle or less of light, but most parking lots are designed with far more illumination than that. Traditional parking lot lights consume a staggering 22.2 billion kilowatt-hours per year, the Facilities Engineering Journal reports. And, Marketdata Enterprises said a few years back, they cost an average of about $650 per year, per space using traditional luminaires, plus labor and maintenance.
Parking lot energy needs might be reduced by more than 40% and maintenance costs by more than 80% with the installation of LED lighting, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says.
LED Luminaires Lead the Way
Recent innovation and continuous improvements in lighting technology have given rise to tremendous energy-saving opportunities. Typically, LEDs were thought about only for aesthetic uses. But engineering and technological advances have improved LED luminaires’ performance, and it is possible to use high-efficiency LED lighting for commercial applications.
LEDs have been around for more than 40 years. The small digital devices can be used to produce millions of different colors and brightness levels of light, but they have the potential to use significantly less energy than traditional lighting methods.
Within the past few years, LED technology has advanced to the point where application level performance can sometimes outperform that of applications incorporating traditional high-intensity-discharge (HID) solutions. Previously, some conventional approaches to developing general illumination LEDs often involved retrofitting existing fixtures to house new LED technology. Many early attempts simply used traditional standards and housings, resulting in poor performance and lower fixture life. Be wary of this approach, and look for products specifically designed around LEDs.
LED Advantages
Due to their potential long life, LED products may offer nearly maintenance-free service, along with the possibility for significant energy savings. LEDs also re-strike instantly after a power interruption and may be controlled with occupancy sensors to offer even greater energy savings.
Additionally, an LED does not burn out like a standard lamp, so individual diodes do not need to be replaced. Instead, they gradually produce lower output levels over a very long time. In fact, well-designed fixtures may operate more than 50,000-plus hours and still deliver at least 70% of their initial performance. Also, if one diode fails, it does not produce a complete fixture outage.
In real-world applications, the LED luminaires are virtually maintenance-free for more than 50,000 hours, compared with typical metal halide products with recommended re-lamping specified at 6,000 to 8,000 hours. This longevity alone translates into greatly reduced maintenance. Additionally, LED lighting for general outdoor use provides:
Durability: LEDs are solid-state devices containing no moving parts, no filaments or fragile glass to break, eliminating the risk of damage during transportation, installation and operation, even in the toughest environments.
Green: LEDs are considered sustainable because they potentially decrease the need for additional power plants that cause the release of CO2 into the atmosphere.
The DOE has heralded LED luminaires as the future of lighting because they have the potential for extremely long life span when compared with incandescent lighting – in many cases 20 times longer. In addition, LEDs consume less energy and are clean burning, thus reducing carbon emissions.
T.F. Green Airport
Case in point: The state-owned T.F. Green airport in Warwick, RI, is operated by the Rhode Island Airport Corporation. Like many organizations and businesses, the Airport Corporation looks for ways to reduce energy consumption and costs, as well as lessen maintenance expenses.
With ConEdison Solutions, the airport agency conducted an overall energy audit to determine current usage and identify opportunities for efficiency and reduction as part of an Energy Saving Performance contract. One area identified as needing efficiency upgrading was the airport’s arrivals roadway. Originally, it had 150 of the 175W metal halide fixtures mounted indirectly and positioned toward the ceiling, providing little light on the roadway. A decision was made to explore the testing of LED luminaires.
Fifty-eight LED luminaires were installed, reducing energy consumption by more than 50%. These fixtures provide dramatically improved lighting performance and produce a brighter, whiter light for the arrivals roadway.
A lifecycle cost analysis of the fixtures, combined with available funding and utility rebate subsidies, will allow the state Airport Corporation to determine if additional LED luminaires will be installed in exterior areas, such as the airport parking lots.
Michael Winegard, East Coast Regional Sales Manager for BetaLED, can be contacted at (401) 954-5769 or michael_winegard@beta-kramer.com. For more information, visit www.BetaLED.com. This article first appeared in a 2009 issue of Parking Magazine.

Article contributed by:
Michael Winegard
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