The sustainability of sports lighting

Sponsored: By Harry Riste, Co-Founder of GrassRoots Power CIC

While LED lighting is the norm for many facility procurement managers, it is only in recent years that area lighting has seen manufacturers introduce products with the power and optical control required to light a large area such as a sports field. A question that many people ask me on a daily basis, is the technology proven and when should we upgrade our systems? There is no simple answer.

There are a number of questions that we have to consider with ROI being seven-fifteen years for LED depending on the facility, hours of use and be it natural grass or AGP. Notably the key is picking the right manufacturer which very much depends on the manufacturers R&D budget. For example, in 2014, the first LED 500 lux hockey pitch in the UK used 54kWh v 70kWh for a conventional HID system. In 2018, with better optical control and product development, we see the energy used for a 500 lux hockey pitch fall to 30kWh.

Harry Riste

The sustainability of a system is not just about energy usage. It is critical when planning a project that we look at the optical control of LEDs, which is of course directly linked to energy but the Local Planning Authority (LPA) requirements are sometimes critical. No LED product is the same or even similar as each manufacturer has taken a different approach to optical control. With this in mind, we have seen retrofit projects that have resulted in LPA Environmental Health Department being engaged due to excessive spill and glare issues; leaving systems that are not meeting the technical specification requirement of the National Governing Bodies (NGB), and embarrassment to the facility owners due to re-aiming having to be carried out.

As more money is invested into the R&D of area lighting we are seeing new approaches to making systems more sustainable. In the last four years I’ve been heavily involved in two of the NGB’s in Sport major pilots into LED lighting and independently tested many products with vastly different outcomes. In the last month, we have been asked to pilot a new HID system that seeks to reduce energy used by 60% in existing and already efficient HID lighting systems. As an example; a 120 lux conventional HID training football pitch would use 19.2kWh v 17.6 kWh with an LED system. The product we are currently running trials on, reduces the energy used by an existing HID system down to 6kWh.

So, just as we open ourselves up to LED, another development making HID systems more efficient, enters the arena. Wonderful news for sustainability, but still leaves the burning question of when to invest somewhat unanswered.

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