Making its Manhattan debut in 2013, the revolutionary LED streetlight for New York City is being officially implemented throughout the metropolitan area. Conceived as a one-to-one replacement for the ubiquitous 250-watt high-pressure sodium Cobra Head, introduced over fifty years ago, the highly-anticipated LED streetlight is now the new standard in the Department of Transportation’s street-lighting catalogue.
The design is a result of a New York City-sponsored international competition, the winning entry of which was submitted by the only finalist to propose an LED solution. At the outset of the competition, high-performance LEDs were an emerging technology, and the breakthrough design was ahead of its time in predicting that LEDs could perform in this demanding application. In contrast to the bulky luminaire heads associated with traditional lamps, the streetlight takes on a slim, elongated profile enabled by the tiny size of its light sources, which do not require a hefty enclosure.
The elegance of the design belies its technical complexity, ranging from the pole itself to the high-performance light engines. At the surface, a silver mica finish lends the streetlight a slight sheen, while a 1” taper over its 30’ height increases structural stability. Each luminaire houses a series of LED ‘modules,’ which contain an LED light engine, optical lensing, and a heat sink. The idea for the innovative modular design builds future flexibility into the system. As LED technology continues to improve at a rapid rate, the modules can be replaced with more efficient types without changing the entire luminaire. The streetlight will thus keep pace with the evolution of technology while the overall appearance remains the same.
Compared to standard streetlights with a single point source, the LED streetlight’s distribution of light is more even, produces better contrast ratios, renders colors with greater accuracy, and minimizes glare. All of these aspects contribute to better safety and security along city streets and sidewalks.
The first prototypes streetlights were installed on Warren Street, near City Hall in downtown Manhattan. In the fall of 2013, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan celebrated with an announcement that all 250,000 standard street light fixtures in New York City will be replaced with the new LED version by 2017. The Administration’s comprehensive, long-term sustainability program – PlaNYC – aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from City government operations 30 percent by 2017, and the LED replacements will contribute significantly to achieving that goal.