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Davis, California

Thursday, October 28, 2021

‘Smart’ lighting integrates energy efficiency and security

Parking lots are going to be a little dimmer nowadays – unless you walk underneath them.

Michael Siminovitch, a design program professor and director of the UC Davis California Lighting Technology Center, and his team have developed a light technology that is motion sensitive in the hopes of saving valuable energy.

“[The technology] is what we call a smart exterior lighting application,” Siminovitch said. “We put together multiple technologies to address the light requirements you would have in a typical parking garage.”

Unveiled on Jan. 12, this new package of technologies, with the help of UC Davis facilities department, has been installed in six different UC Davis locations – three parking structures, one pathway network and two exteriors lights on buildings. Sacramento State University as well as the Arcade Creek Park in Sacramento have also had the technology installed.

The new lighting system works by emitting a high quality light through a diode. Instead of constantly being on all the time and wasting energy when no one is present, there are controls that allow the light to operate at about 30 percent. Once it senses motion, the lighting system turns back up to 100 percent, Siminovitch said.

This lighting system has the potential to be installed in various locations such as classrooms, conference rooms, parking lots, pathways and offices in order to save energy.

“The university is a leader in this concept,” Siminovitch said. “We want to see all universities, all state colleges and all public buildings to be a part [of it].”

This new technology does a number of things. It gives people the increased light that they need when there are a lot of people around. It helps with maintenance as the lights operate at a reduced output for most of the time and can work up to 100,000 hours. It also accentuates safety and security.

“In this type of environment you never want to turn the lights off but only reduce the lighting when no one is around,” Siminovitch said.

Siminovitch’s team worked very closely with the security, safety and police groups on this project in order to develop a technology that would save energy as well as promote safety.

UC Davis students agree that this new technology is beneficial to save energy and to promote energy.

“I think it’s a good way to conserve energy when [lights] are not needed,” said Katie Enriquez, a first-year exercise biology major. “It makes you feel a lot safer going into the parking lot knowing the lights will get brighter for you once you enter.”

Siminovitch hopes that this new system will cut energy use by up to 60 percent and his team has seen that many places with this technology have done just that.

Up to 25 percent of energy is used in buildings, including exterior lights, he said. Public institutions like UC Davis have many sites where exterior lights are on all the time, even when no one is there, which is essentially wasteful.

Light pollution can also be partially solved with this new technology. With lights on all the time, it is impossible to clearly see the night sky in an urban environment.

However, this technology is not suitable for all exterior lights, warned Siminovitch. Street lights and areas that absolutely require bright lights would not be suitable because of security and practical issues.

The California Lighting Technology Center was established in 2003 at UC Davis through collaborations with the California Energy Commission’s public interest energy research program that funds a lot of research at Davis, U.S. Department of Energy and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. Its goal is to stimulate the development and application of energy efficient lighting, according to the CLTC’s website.

“The lighting center partners up with other universities like UC Irvine and uses UC Davis as the leader,” Siminovitch said.

 

NICK MARKWITH can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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