Industrial LED Lighting: The New Secret Weapon in the Battle Against Pollution

Switching from conventional High-Intensity Diode (HID) lighting, such as high-pressure sodium fixtures, to modern, high-efficiency industrial-grade LED lighting has proven to be one of the most effective sustainability practices.

A recent report by the World Health Organization uncovered a shocking reality: more than 90 percent of children around the world are breathing toxic air. That means that some 1.8 billion children are exposed to polluted air that causes respiratory issues, heart disease and damage to developing organs and the nervous system on a daily basis. For some, the risk begins before they’re even born, according to the WHO, as exposure to pollution during pregnancy is linked to premature and underweight babies and increases the risk of chronic disease later in life.

The WHO and others have highlighted the issue as a crisis of epic proportions, with some 600,000 children dying every year from acute lower respiratory infections caused by dirty air. The problem is so extensive, some experts have even called air pollution "the new tobacco" killing 7 million people a year as an estimated 9 out of ten people breathe polluted air on a daily basis.

One Small Change Can Have a Big Impact
While we can all do our part on an individual basis to reduce pollution, the push toward environmental responsibility is especially important in the industrial and manufacturing sector which, by sheer volume of consumption and output, can have a profound effect on global pollution.

For many companies, it may come as a surprise that a relatively small change can make a very big impact. Switching from conventional High-Intensity Diode (HID) lighting, such as high-pressure sodium fixtures, to modern, high-efficiency industrial-grade LED lighting has proven to be one of the most effective sustainability practices that delivers both bottom-line benefits and earth-friendly operation, with a relatively small investment.

What makes industrial LED lighting such a smart investment that can have a big impact on reducing pollution? Converting to LED fixtures can:

  • Reduce energy use by up 90 percent compared to legacy systems.[1] Because LED fixtures are much more energy efficient than conventional HPS and other HID lighting, and they produce up to 60 percent more light output,[2] LEDs consume far less energy. Adding dimming, sensors and smart controls reduces light usage by up to 50 percent per day[3] in industrial settings where HPS lights are often left on to avoid the warm up period. Considering that there are roughly 144 million industrial light fixtures in place at 455,000 facilities around the country,[4] converting each to an LED fixture could save 52 terawatt hours—enough to light 37 million homes.[5]
  • Reduce carbon emissions and air pollution. By virtue of their dramatically lower energy consumption, switching to high-efficiency LED fixtures in industrial applications would cut carbon emissions by 28 million metric tons a year—the equivalent of removing 6 million passenger cars from the road every year.[6] Making the switch would also eliminate 67,000 tons of toxic nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide from the atmosphere—the compounds responsible for acid rain, smog and respiratory harm.
  • Save water. It takes a lot of water to produce the 58 terawatt hours of electricity consumed by industrial lighting each year,[7] not including what flows through hydroelectric plants. Switching to industrial LEDs would save 5 million gallons each year, enough to supply 17,000 households.[8]
  • Avoid hazardous waste contamination. One typical HPS lamp contains as much as 50 milligrams of mercury[9] -- enough to poison an entire classroom.[10] With millions of these lamps installed across the country, that amounts to enough mercury to poison millions of classrooms.[10] Add to that the tungsten and other compounds released when HPS bulbs are disposed of and it's easy to see the cumulative environmental contamination caused by HPS use. In short, LEDs eliminate nearly all of this because they contain no hazardous materials and use dramatically less energy.

Lighting the Way to Environmental Stewardship
While all of this sounds promising, the real story is taking place in facilities around the world, which are proving that world-class industrial LED lighting can have a massive impact on sustainability, reducing pollution and improving fiscal performance. Here's just one example:

At the state-of-the-art Rubis Terminal in Rotterdam, a mineral oil and chemical storage and handling facility, Rubis has achieved the ultimate in sustainability—a zero emissions operation—with the help of industrial LED lighting. The company completely outfitted the new facility with world-class industrial fixtures to achieve the most efficient, safe, and reliable illumination possible, while also reducing energy, maintenance, and total operating costs.

As a result, the company not only achieved its zero-emissions goal, but also expects to save 100,000 € per year on maintenance with fixtures that are guaranteed to last up to 10 years. The project enabled the company to easily meet The Netherlands' annual government energy audit requirements and has been so successful that Rubis plans to retrofit other terminals with the same lighting.

An Investment in the Future
As Rubis and hundreds of other industrial facilities around the world have discovered, sustainable operations aren't just good for the planet—they also correlate with bottom-line benefits. Not only are consumers leaning more heavily toward conscious capitalism, choosing to buy from and do business with companies that do good, but a growing number of businesses are also embedding internal carbon pricing into their business strategy to prepare for a low-carbon future.

Investing in high-efficiency industrial LED lighting can not only save energy and reduce the impact of pollution now, but with a return on investment in under two years in some cases, it’s an investment that will continue to reap both environmental and financial dividends for years to come.

Luis Rameriz is the Chief Operations Officer at Dialight.

[1] GE "ROI of LED" 

[2] U.S. Dept. of Energy, "Energy Savings Forecast," p. 67, ECG analysis  

[3] ECG analysis  

[4] U.S. Dept. of Energy, Lighting Market Characterization, Tables 4-1, 4-22  

[5] U.S. Dept. of Energy, "Adoption of Light-Emitting Diodes in Common Lighting Applications" (2017), ECG analysis  

[6] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Final Mercury and Air Toxics Standards"; U.S. Dept. of Energy, "Lighting Market Characterization";; ECG analysis 

[7] U.S. Dept. of Energy, "Lighting Market Characterization"; ECG analysis  

[8] Union of Concerned Scientists, "Freshwater Use by U.S. Power Plants" 2011 (1.5m3/MWh); U.S. EPA "WaterSense" 

[9] Osram, GE, HPS product specifications  

[10] U.S. Dept. of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration 29 CFR 1910.1000, Table Z-2; ECG analysis