Editorial — 27 September 2017

The installation of LED street lights in Dryden came and went over the summer without a lot of fanfare. Well, maybe some fanfare is in order.

Why don’t we take a break from the exhausting political machinations both at home and abroad and take a closer look at our participation in what is often touted as one of the most significant scientific developments of the past century.

After 20 years of work in cracking a difficult problem in creating a blue ‘light-emitting diode’ (red and green LEDs have existed for many decades prior) Japanese researchers Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura received a Nobel prize in 2014 for an innovation that suddenly made a lot of new things possible.

Blue LEDs are important because they can be combined with red and green diodes to produce white light at an unparalleled efficiency and longevity.

It’s the kind of development that suddenly makes a 70-inch TV energy efficient enough to own, or allows a smartphone to run all day off its battery. It lets kids in the developing world finish their homework when it gets dark.

The biggest ramifications for the world comes in lighting, which accounts for about one-quarter of all energy use on the planet. While an incandescent bulb converts energy to light at a rate of about 4 per cent (losing most to heat), an LED bulb’s conversion rate sits above 50 per cent and can last 25,000 hours compared to an incandescent bulb’s 1,000 hours.

When we’re talking about street lighting in Dryden, the move from the old orange-glowing High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lights is expected to save over $120,000 in energy costs per year and pay for the project in four years.

Aside from looking more natural and increasing motorist braking reaction times by 25 per cent, the streetlights have a life expectancy of 20 years and a 10-year warranty (compared to a five-year HPS bulb).

It’s really a perfect project for a cash-strapped municipality looking for cost-effective ways to strengthen infrastructure and improve quality of life while staying committed to a long-term plan to reduce its debt-load.

In 2016 the City of Dryden spent $195,000 in energy and $50,000 in maintenance on the former street-lighting system. In a normal year under LED lights, they expect to pay 70 per cent less.

Now that’s a good news story that deserves some praise. 

— Chris Marchand

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Chris Marchand is a native of Dryden, Ontario. He served his first newspaper internship at The Dryden Observer in 1998 while attending journalism studies at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops B.C. He's worked desks as both reporter and editor at the Fernie Free Press as well as filled the role of sports editor at the Cranbrook Daily Townsman. Marchand was named editor of the Dryden Observer in Aug. 2009.

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