Integrated Lighting Systems Reduce Military Base Costs, Meet Security Requirements

Integrated Lighting Systems Reduce Military Base Costs, Meet Security Requirements

This piece was originally published in the April 2016 issue of ei, the magazine of the electroindustry. 

By Rob Drago, Vice President, Infrastructure Vertical Marketing, Acuity Brands Lighting


In today’s world, military bases must implement very high security measures to ensure the safety and security of all personnel. These facilities require high-quality, reliable lighting and real-time reporting and diagnostics so that energy and security personnel know when and where luminaires are down and why, allowing them to re-establish the security perimeter more quickly.

Modern military installations are also concerned with conserving energy and reducing maintenance as strategies to decrease overall operating costs. An energy-efficient lighting system helps minimize the military’s energy footprint and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

There are, however, challenges associated with these efforts. Most military bases sprawl across thousands of acres and include a range of applications requiring a broad portfolio of luminaires—from roadways and intersections to security checkpoints, substations, motor pools, and office and medical buildings.

They also include a mix of personnel that reside and work on base. Some military personnel and civilians arrive in the morning and leave at night. Others, including soldiers manning security checkpoints, require illumination for tasks performed after dark.

In addition, many military installations are located near residential areas or wildlife refuges where sky glow and light pollution must be avoided.

LEDs Meet Base Needs

Military bases are beginning to convert aged high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting systems to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to achieve high levels of efficiency and reliable, long-term performance. LED lighting offers advantages for the many applications typical of most military installations, most notably energy efficiency and reduced maintenance.

Solid-state luminaires use far less energy than traditional technology and typically reduce energy consumption by 40 to 65 percent. The fixtures’ long service life eliminates the need to change lamps and replace ballasts to further reduce costs.

Most LED luminaires are rated for 100,000 hours versus 24,000 hours for high-pressure sodium (HPS) and 10,000 hours for metal halide sources. Table 1 provides a value comparison for an LED luminaire and a metal halide unit.

Table 1. Value comparison for LED luminaire and metal halide unit
Table 1. Value comparison for LED luminaire and metal halide unit

LED luminaires offer these additional advantages:

  • A bright white light that resembles daylight and improves visibility and color-rendering index (CRI). Illumination levels from LED sources generally exceed Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) recommendations.
  • Directional nature of LED luminaires provides superior control of light distribution. Better system efficacy avoids trapped light, wasteful covers, and shields.
  • Enhanced optics minimizes light trespass and glare and significantly reduces sky glow. The absence of dark and bright spots creates a safer, more comfortable environment.
  • There is nearly instantaneous operation, especially compared to HID lamps. HID sources require several minutes for warm up.
  • Sustainability is achieved in the form of lower CO2 emissions and minimized light pollution.
  • Greater asset management is possible since LED systems are highly compatible with electronic dimming and other controls.

LED lighting systems are highly flexible and include luminaire styles and technology to replace HID cobrahead luminaires, floodlights and high mast units in a range of applications. Architectural styles are also available to illuminate a variety of roadway applications, walkways and base housing.

Military base access roads and security checkpoints require illumination for tasks performed after dark. Photos courtesy of Acuity.

Monitoring, Controlling Reduces Costs, Improves Reliability

The transition to LED lighting has spurred interest in lighting control systems, as lighting represents a large portion of any installation’s energy costs. LED luminaires are also easy to dim.

Lighting control systems offer the ability to control individual luminaires or groups of luminaires from a single user interface device to reduce energy consumption and extend service life. Available technology can transform LED luminaires into sensor-equipped smart devices capable of capturing data in near-real time and providing unprecedented insight for a broad range of applications and services.

One utility company, for instance, that purchased the outdoor power system for a large military base made the decision to replace existing HPS luminaires with an LED system because there were complaints about luminaire outages and costs associated with maintaining the HPS units. The change to an LED system, integrated with a control system for dimming and monitoring, had the potential to reduce energy consumption by 60 percent over the previous HPS luminaires, which did not incorporate a control system.

Most lighting manufacturers offer control systems using either wired or wireless interconnects to link light fixtures, switches, and dimmers to a centralized controller. Wireless systems also offer benefits such as reduced installation costs and increased flexibility.

A wireless system consists of a mesh network of intelligent photocontrols or nodes that control luminaires. The nodes monitor fixture performance and operating conditions and execute commands such as dimming based on schedules and daylight levels, as appropriate.

This capability allows a military base or utility that owns or operates the outdoor power system to target specific areas for dimming at specified times. One base, for example, saves energy by employing a control system with dimming capabilities that reduce luminaire output in the parking areas for office and medical buildings, motor pools, and other structures that remain unoccupied at night.

The control system dims LED luminaires to 75 percent output at 10 p.m. and 50 percent output at midnight. It returns luminaires to full brightness at 5 a.m. before workers begin to arrive.

The base, which recently installed the integrated lighting and control system, is considering dimming luminaires in areas such as basic training that are closed during certain times of the year (holidays) for further energy savings. The facility also uses the monitoring and control system to check for luminaire outages resulting from storms to improve service efficiency.

Residential roads and walkways throughout a military base, such as those in this base housing complex, use a combination of decorative LED lanterns and luminaires to enhance driver and pedestrian safety.
Residential roads and walkways throughout a military base, such as those in this base housing complex, use a combination of decorative LED lanterns and luminaires to enhance driver and pedestrian safety.

Building a Smart Military

The potential exists now for a single integrated solution that will transform energy-efficient LED lighting into a smart platform for data-driven applications such as public safety, security, and location analytics. The smart lighting network will have the ability to transform LED luminaires into sensor-equipped, smart devices capable of capturing data in near-real time, which will enable a broad array of applications and services.

Military bases can reap the benefits of the efficient, reliable illumination provided by intelligent lighting systems. Integrated solutions are a greener choice and offer advanced monitoring and control capabilities for longevity, reduced costs, and a safer and more secure environment.

Mr. Drago’s 23-year career with Acuity Brands includes over 15 years in lighting sales and sales leadership roles. He spent the past five years in Outdoor Infrastructure Product.

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