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ATEX and IEC Ex Flame-proof Explosion Proof Lighting & Equipment
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05/25/12 Military Energy Efficiency Awareness and LED Lighting

Article- May 2012 By Larson

MILSPEC 461 Vehicle Mount LED Light

Larson Electronics MILSPEC 461 Vehicle Mount LED Light

If there were any doubt about the effectiveness of new energy efficient technologies, recent plans by the US military to provide up to 50% of its power need through renewable energy sources by 2020 should put those doubts to rest. The military's shift in focus regarding energy can be seen at every level, from military command on down to field commanders who rather than approach the subject of energy from a view of increasing fuel supplies to power operations, now view traditional fossil fuels as a hindrance and limitation of their capabilities. Much of this change is coming about as a result of improved methods for producing energy, followed closely by technologies which allow much more efficient use of the energy produced.

During combat actions, supply lines and fuel stores are prime targets for enemy forces, often resulting in high casualty rates for soldiers. Commanders have recognized that reducing reliance on fossil fuels will directly reduce the amount of resources and personnel needed to protect these supplies as well as reduce casualty rates. Transport and storage of energy supplies is problematic as well as it increases the amount of weight vehicles and soldiers must carry with them during operations. Extended deployments often require that substantial energy reserves be maintained and carried from one area to another, and soldiers can often see up to 20% of their average 100 lbs of personal gear load represented by extra batteries.


With the military changing to a more energy efficient focus and seeking to better utilize alternative energy sources, the potential benefits for the entire U.S. will go beyond simply reducing fossil fuel consumption. The military has for most of its history been one of the biggest driving forces behind the development and introduction of new technologies that eventually find practical use in everyday civilian life. The military often serves as one of the most demanding test beds for such technologies, and the critical nature of military requirements drives development beyond the normal cost versus profit considerations normally held by private industries. With the military becoming more focused on energy efficiency, the potential for more rapid and effective development of these technologies is increased.

One of the most successful and noticeable areas of increased energy efficiency within the military sector has been the introduction of LED lighting into almost every facet of military operations. Particularly in Naval applications, LEDs are showing remarkable success as traditional lighting on warships and submarines is replaced with LED lighting systems. The Office of Naval Research for example has reported great success with its Solid State Lighting (SSL) project which involved the installation and assessment of LEDs into real time application onboard active vessels. To date, this project has demonstrated a reduction in maintenance and fuel costs, improved onboard living standards, and significant reduction in energy usage. Projections estimate that complete switchover to LED lighting could possibly reduce electrical consumption by up to a third, producing a resultant improvement ship-wide electrical operating efficiency. To date, an up to 87% reduction in energy consumption from ship-wide lighting is considered a practical expectation with a switch to LEDs.


Sailors on ships where LEDs have been installed report an improvement from the fluorescent lighting being replaced, with better light color and quieter operation being notable results. Officers are also reporting an expected increase in available room for stores onboard submarines and ships due to the fact that LEDs will not require replacing for up to ten years, allowing them to reduce their inventory of replacement bulbs, ballasts, and related lighting maintenance items. Particularly on submarines where space is severely limited, LEDs mean more room for vital supplies as well as a reduction in the amount of toxic refuse that must be accounted for. Since the fluorescent lamps currently used aboard most submarines contain mercury as well as other toxic materials, they must be stored and disposed of properly, increasing the costs to the Navy associated with their use.


Other beneficial aspects of LEDs directly noted by Naval studies include the advanced durability of LEDs. Citing concerns with lighting and its ability to withstand heavy vibration and shocks, LEDs have shown themselves to be quite durable and far more rugged than any other light source. This durability could easily be seen as a critical advantage on warships where combat situations could play havoc with traditional filament and glass light bulbs and fluorescent lamps. Military use of LEDs is far from confined to use in tactical applications however, and their successful use in field applications is leading to their inclusion in building and vehicle lighting applications as well.


It has been noted that LEDs can greatly reduce electrical use, especially when applied to structure and outdoor lighting. Military bases have been running several test programs aimed at phasing out traditional lamps with LEDs in an effort to determine just how much reduction in energy consumption and costs can be realized from more efficient lighting alone. Naval facilities at Port Hueneme and Point Mogu in California have replaced exterior area and street lighting with LEDS and realized up to 60% savings in energy use. Naval Base San Diego has replaced only a portion of its street lights and exterior lighting with LEDS and realized very quickly a savings of over $120,000 annually. Combined with the use of alternative energy sources and other energy efficiency technologies, LEDs are clearly playing a critical role in giving the U.S. military and advantage that will translate into a less costly yet more effective national defense.


The less noticeable effects of military LED development however are the benefits provided in improved lighting technologies for the private sector. With heavy military interest in energy efficient technologies comes funding and motivation to develop these technologies. Once proven through military acceptance, movement of these technologies into the public sector often happens very quickly, which means eventual across the board improvements in energy efficiency and a reduced reliance on fossil fuels for energy nationwide at a faster pace than would happen through normal corporate development of these technologies.

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