An earlier post here discussed LED lighting as an emerging technology, ready for taking on florescent bulbs for specialized niceh markets and poised to become a mainstream competitor for lighting once the price point drops. Today CNet reports that the city of Raleigh has already started replacing existing sodium lights in a downtown parking garage with LEDs.
This is a pilot project in conjunction with the manufacturer Cree. Mayor Meeker claims they expect to recoup the higher initial cost of the LEDs in 2-3 years. (It is not clear if the city had to pay market price for this installation. For one thing, wholesale buyers benefit from economy of scales and the vendor may have been incented to give away its V1 product at significant discount for goodwill and positive PR coverage.)
Commercial markets for lights that stay on 24/7 and have associated maintenance costs may well become the beach-head for LEDs:
“Over the next year, LED-based light fixtures for commercial buildings and signs will begin to increase in number […] . The commercial market in many ways is inherently more attractive because they don’t need to be replaced as often, which cuts down the number of times the maintenance crew has to put up a ladder.”
Cree CEO Chuck Swoboda claims that new homes may feature LED lighting as early as 6-12 months from today. That may be too optimistic: with the slump in real-state across the board, it’s difficult to imagine developers used to churning out cheap, wood-frame, cookie-cutter units start using expensive parts that will only pay off for the buyers long term. Or for that matter, buyers being rational enough to weigh in future savings against initial price, if the costs were passed on. At best this could be become the showcase feature for an urban construction project, trying to distinguish itself by appealing to eco-conscious buyers.