The lower prices could give a significant boost to LED-based streetlights. Up to now, many such lights have benefitted from federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant money, often because they weren't cost-competitive with traditional lighting technologies.
"If not for those funds, most of the LED streetlights would not have been put up," Jim Uno, president and CEO of American Green Lights, which deals with LED and induction technologies, told us. "Most cities could not have afforded $1,200 fixture costs."
Cree hopes its cost reduction will help change that. Such cost reductions are unsurprising. LED costs have been dropping virtually since the technology's invention in 1962 and have long been predicted by a phenomenon known as Haitz's Law. That law (named for Roland Haitz, a retired Agilent Technologies scientist) says LED cost per lumen falls by a factor of 10 every decade, while the light generated by the package rises by a factor of 20.
According to Cree, its new lights will offer as much as 100 lumens per watt -- a figure that enabled it to halve the number of LEDs in the unit and further reduce its cost. Industry experts say such claims represent a step forward for LEDs. "If they have an LED streetlight that is effectively giving out 100 lumens per watt, then that's very, very good," Uno said.
Cree says the lower price of the new technology will enable the XSP Series to be comparable in cost to sodium vapor technology, when maintenance and energy costs are included. "The price point is getting much closer to the incumbent technology," Trott said. "The cost has come down so much that it's not nearly the investment that it was five years ago."