Cree (NASDAQ: CREE) already passed one lighting milestone earlier this year, offering a warm white light-emitting diode (LED) bulb for less than $10.
The LED company is now taking another step in low-cost, high-quality LEDs for another sector: street lighting. The XSPR LED residential street light will sell for as little as $99 while using more than 65 percent less energy, according to the company.
The new street light ideally replaces high-pressure sodium fixtures of up to 100 watts, according to Cree, and can offer payback in less than one year.
As a relative newcomer, Cree is incentivized to push the pricing boundaries of LEDs, compared to incumbents that still make plenty of money in the traditional street light sector with HIDs, and therefore are less interested in aggressive LED pricing, said Jon Guerster, CEO of Groom Energy Solutions. “Because Cree makes high-quality products, taking a price leadership role is more significant than pricing statements by less known, less established Asian vendors trying to buy market share,” he added.
The low price might just be the final straw in the push to switch street lights to LEDs. Even a few years ago, high-brightness white-light LEDs were becoming established within the outdoor lighting industry, according to a study on the LED market by GTM Research and Groom Energy. “As LED price points decrease and lumen outputs increase,” the study authors wrote in 2012, “we estimate that LEDs will start to replace most forms of street lighting within the next two to five years.” Also, the economics of replacing a light on a 40-foot-tall highway or street pole exceed that of a 20-foot-tall parking lot pole, according to the study.
The lighting switch isn’t that surprising as cash-strapped municipalities look for ways to cut costs. Street lights cost the U.S. $6 billion to $8 billion annually for energy and maintenance. That has made a lot of city planners take a look at LEDs. Los Angeles, for example, completed the largest LED street light replacement program in the country last year, with a retrofit of more than 140,000 lights.
Raleigh, N.C. also piloted Cree LEDs with hopes to eventually replace all 32,000 of its street lights. “Street lighting is our city’s largest single energy-related cost,” Dan Howe, assistant city manager of Raleigh, N.C., said in a statement. Other cities, such as Las Vegas, Seattle and Austin, are also investing in LEDs.
Cree’s XSP LED street lights have both 25-watt and 42-watt options to replace up to 100-watt high-intensity discharge lamps. Like other Cree products, the XSP comes with a ten-year warranty.
LED street lights offer more than just energy savings and multi-year warranties, however. Many other companies besides light manufacturers are eager to get into street lights. Networked lighting can offer additional public safety measures and dim or brighten based on certain conditions.
Even though the market for LED street lights is ripe for transformation, there is a long way to go. Cities may be replacing tens, or even hundreds of thousands, of street lights with LEDs, but there are an estimated 26.5 million street lights in the U.S., and nearly the same amount of highway lights.
Watch Cree explain how to install its street lights: