LED lighting towers: sustainable benefits, financial sense

Supplier: PROMAC International By: Chris Williams
23 January, 2012

How many electricians does it take to change a light bulb? None for the next 11 years if you make the switch to LED lighting towers, as an increasing number of mines and construction companies are rapidly discovering.

LED lighting towers have come of age, and whether you work in mining, construction or any other industry requiring a moveable lighting solution, the benefits of shifting to LED lighting are clear. Whether it is safety, environmental benefits, or cost savings you are looking for, LED lighting has the answer.

Mining and construction companies are working hard to reduce their environmental footprint, as good corporate governance practices are increasingly becoming mainstream expectations of shareholders, government, and the general public as a whole.

But on top of the sustainability benefits, it’s the cost savings from LED that are forcing people to sit up and take notice.

According to Andrew McAdam, General Manager of PROMAC, an Australian company specialising in LED lighting towers, replacing a standard lighting tower with an LED lighting tower could save you up to 12,000 litres of fuel per tower and hundreds of dollars annually in reduced R&M expenses.

In itself a sizeable chunk of money, but when you consider that some of the larger mining companies have several hundred lighting towers in the Pilbara alone, and a fleet of thousands across Australia, the scale of the potential savings a company might expect should make fleet buyers sit up and take notice.

"Quite frankly that sort of fuel saving is almost unheard of - major fleet buyers are looking at an approximate two year payback, and you are looking at a minimum of five years before refurbishment," McAdam told IndustrySearch.

"The actual LEDs have an expected life of 50,000 hours, so you are looking at a minimum 10 years before they need replacement. With your typical light tower you might get 3,000 hours out of the lights, but they are notoriously fragile and prone to damage."

Given the impressive scale of the potential savings, it comes as something of a surprise that there is any market remaining for traditional lighting towers at all, McAdam agrees.

"That’s what we are hoping, but it will take time to adopt as LED light towers may not always be better suited," McAdam said.

"You get very intense light from metal halide in a tight area, and then a sharp drop off. So if you need tight light at a bottom of a deep pit, maybe metal halide might be better. That said considering the savings, you might as well buy an extra LED tower and put it at the bottom of the pit."

While certain applications may possibly be better served using a traditional metal halide lighting tower, metal halide does have its drawbacks, and with LED lighting the benefits aren’t all about the cost savings either. For people working in operations, maintenance, safety or environmental management, there is a lot to consider, when buying and specifying lighting towers.

"LEDs give you instant light – or instant restrike - with metal halide you have to wait for the optimal output which can take a minute or so. That may not seem a lot, but if a light has to be repositioned, you have to wait 15 minutes to restrike metal halide lights, which multiplied over a lot of towers is a lot of productive time lost," McAdam said.

"LED lights also give you better colour rendition, how colours appear under artificial lights. If you are working on electrical wiring, you want to be certain you can see colours clearly."

And it’s not just electricians working under lights who will be grateful of the safety benefits of LED lighting, they are safer for everyone – human or animal.

"(Unlike metal halide) there is no UV output with LED lights. During the day people will have sun block on, but at night under lights people wouldn’t necessarily think there was UV exposure they needed to worry about," McAdam warned.

"It makes it safer for people and for animals. In coastal projects metal halide lights affect turtles, the frequency upsets their breeding and migration, not with LED light towers.

"Moths and bugs are also less attracted to them. A company can make an instant environmental contribution by using LED light towers."

Safety isn’t something you should take as a given when shopping around for your lighting towers, as not all towers are created equal, and certainly not every supplier treats safety as standard rather than an optional extra.

"Our Greenlite LED towers are fully bunded, also some companies list as optional extras things that mines require as standard. They aren’t optional to the mines, and they aren’t optional on our LED towers, they are standard," McAdam said.

"By including all the mine spec safety features as standard, it makes asset deployment easier and more efficient – you haven’t got to wait around for these extra parts to be sourced and fitted. It also makes the products easier to order and price – you know it’s all included."

PROMAC’s Greenlite LED towers offer as standard a range of safety features – emergency stop, safety shutdowns, audio and visual alarms, hydraulic safety valves, locking gas struts, a mast locking system, hydraulic limit switches, a fire extinguisher, a lockable isolator, and that’s just for starters.

If you are after optional extras, well the Greenlite LED towers have those too – surveillance camera, SMS start, and remote control operation for example.

For maintenance staff it’s not just the fact they only have to change the lights every ten years or so, that makes the Greenlite LED towers so appealing.

"There are maintenance benefits; fewer parts, less downtime, it will run for 104 hours on a tank of fuel. You might get 33 hours on a metal halide lighting tower even though it has a larger fuel tank," McAdam explains.

While LED lighting technology is progressing quickly, McAdam says there is no reason for buyers and specifiers to delay the switch to LED lights, as the Greenlite series can sustain a range of upgrades and are effectively "future-proofed".

PROMAC are currently in the process of taking demonstration models out for field trials, so if you think LED lighting might just be right for your application, now is the time to do something about it.