Could Streetlights be the Next Big Idea in Demand Response?

Jan 19, 2016 10:17:00 AM by NuEnergen

power conservationEach day, countless users require electricity at the exact same time, putting a lot of demand on utilities. While this is true throughout the year, it's an even greater issue during the winter season when the days are shorter and darkness sets in sooner. In addition to more lights being turned on, heaters are being run at full blast. 

The end result is that more electricity is being used than can be provided by utilities. Instead of buying up electricity from neighboring utilities, though, some are considering alternative ways to keep their customers' lights on, and the primary focus is currently on streetlights. Could this be the next big thing in demand response?

Streetlights as a Demand Response Solution

Although it may come as a surprise, streetlights are actually capable of taking up as much as 40 percent of a city's entire energy load -- that's nearly half! If utilities could control streetlights remotely, they would have the ability to distribute this much-needed energy to areas in high demand. 

Seem far-fetched? Think again. The same "Internet of Things" which has enabled people to adjust thermostats while away from the home or office or to set the DVR while busy running errands makes it possible for your utility's lights to be controlled remotely. In fact, lighting control solutions enable power from streetlights to be managed anywhere, any time. It's even possible for them to run on an existing automated metering infrastructure network. In this way, utilities can improve demand response at a fraction of the cost.

How It Works

As it stands, streetlights turn on at their full wattage as soon as the sun begins to set -- even when it's not all that dark yet. If lights were set to come on when they were truly needed, though, and were to increase in brightness as the sky becomes darker, a significant amount of energy could be saved. For example, at dusk and dawn during peak demand events, the wattage could be reduced by 15-20 percent. Although the decreased lighting intensity can scarcely be noticed, a huge impact is made on the utility's ability to meet demand. In other words, as lights are trimmed, the peak is shaved.

By following a few simple steps, this exciting possibility in demand response can be turned into a reality:
  • Finding the overlap -- Utilities determine whether there's an overlap between peak demand hours and times when the lights are on. 
  • Integrating lighting and AMI -- Utilities seek out a lighting control system that can be dovetailed into an existing AMI program, providing the ability to control the streetlights and measure load reduction in real-time.
  • Load Aggregation -- Lights are bundled so that they can be turned off simultaneously.
  •  Cooperation -- Instead of maintaining silos between lighting and metering departments, the two must combine their functional needs to promote energy savings.
  • Establishing Security -- Utilities must take measures to secure their system to prevent hackers from tampering with streetlights.
The benefits to following these steps and embracing streetlights for demand response during peak demand could be significant, and are definitely worth considering. Contact the professionals at NuEnergen for more information on demand response and how current events could affect your business.