TECHNOLOGIES

Overview

LED light bulbs
LED light bulbs

Solid state lighting currently has two to four times greater efficacy than incandescent bulbs, and by 2011 efficacy is expected to be five to seven times greater than that of incandescents. Since lighting accounts for 22% of residential electricity consumption and 35% of commercial electricity consumption in California, switching to solid state lighting could eliminate 11-19% of California's residential electricity consumption and 17-30% of the state's commercial electricity consumption. That's enough electricity to power between 3.4 and 5.8 million homes every year.

Solid state lighting comes in several forms: light-emitting diodes (LEDs), organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), and polymer light-emitting diodes (PLEDs). All produce light by running a small electrical current through a semiconductor that naturally gives off light when exposed to a current.

Traditional incandescent lighting, in contrast, works by heating a tungsten filament until it glows. This process is not very efficient - only 10% of the energy used by an incandescent bulb is converted to visible light.

Solid state lighting is proven and familiar in many applications such as electronics, flashlights, and traffic lights. However, the technology has only recently begun to replace incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs in more mainstream lighting applications.

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The Marcus Center at Night
Building Exteriors

Because of solid state lighting's flexibility and durability, artists and architects are increasingly using this technology to light building exteriors.

The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts completed its lighting renovation, shown to the right, in April 2008. The renovation showcases the center as a Milwaukee landmark, and is inspired by the smooth color transitions of renowned local artist Georgia O'Keefe.

The colors constantly blend and change, a feature that is enabled by the choice of solid state lighting, which is easy to control with a computer program.

Another advantage of the LED lighting is the ease of maintenance. Paul Gregory, the president of Focus Lighting and the designer of this "Light Art" installation, states that the lighting "will require no maintenance for 15 years." He adds, "that's a dream for a lighting designer."

More and more buildings and art installations are following the Marcus Center's example. The Empire State Building, for example, will soon be adopting LED lighting for its exterior, and the New Year's Eve ball in Times Square is now lit by LEDs.