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Let there be less light: Start-up applies smart grid concepts to saving energy in warehouses

Posting in Architecture

Sometimes, being in the dark is a good thing.

If you're like me, you've done plenty of driving in the middle of the night in unfamiliar territory, whizzing by strip malls and distribution centers and warehouses. Did you ever notice how often the lights are on in those facilities? I'm sure the midnight shift needs some illumination, but think about how much money the average company wastes on lighting up facilities or portions of facilities when no humans are there. For starters, consider that the energy spent to do this could be up to $1 per square foot. Multiply that times 100,000 square feet and that's a fairly large check to write.

That's the problem that Boston-based Digital Lumens is trying to solve with its new Smart Light Grid architectural approach to lighting warehouses and other industrial facilities. The company claims that its technology, which includes LEDs, networking technology and automation software, can cut energy expenses associated with lighting these sorts of facilities by up to 90 percent. (Its corporate slogan is "Providing 100 percent of the light for 10 percent of the cost.")

Here's what is specifically included in the Digital Lumens system:

  • Intelligent Light Engines: These are white-light LED fixtures that can replace traditional 400W HID, HPS and T5 or T8 fluorescent light fixture and that reduce kilowatt per hour energy consumption. These Intelligent Light Engines each have sensors and wireless networking capabilities (essentially an on-board computer) so that they can be hooked into the company's energy management system.
  • Smart Light Grid: Once multiple fixtures are installed, they can communicate with each other wirelessly, creating an intelligent grid that can respond dynamically to ambient conditions.
  • LightRules: This is the company's control and energy management software, which can be used to define system behavior (off, on, the response to certain conditions), tracking up-to-the minute energy efficiency data or otherwise control what's going on with the lights. The cool thing is that this software can, in turn, be integrated into a company master warehouse management technology or into energy carbon accounting software. So, the lights can be considered in the context of the facility's larger needs.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure