Guest post by Jim Brodrick, Department of Energy [Recently], DOE reopened the PAR 38 category of the L Prize competition. As you might recall, we suspended that category in January…
Guest post by Jim Brodrick, Department of Energy
[Recently], DOE reopened the PAR 38 category of the L Prize competition. As you might recall, we suspended that category in January 2011 for retooling. Why? In order to incorporate lessons learned from the competition’s 60W replacement lamp category. The changes made will streamline and improve the competition process, to keep pace with the speed of innovation in the industry and move winning products into American homes and businesses sooner.
So what’s been changed in the PAR 38 category of the L Prize competition? First, let’s go over what’s not changed. All of the original, challenging performance requirements, as set forth by Congress in the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, have been retained, to drive innovation and challenge industry as a whole to push the needle higher – and, of course, to ensure that winning products not only save energy, but also provide high-quality illumination. The rigorous vetting and testing has also been retained, to ensure that the performance, quality, lifetime, and availability of winning products meet expectations for mass manufacturing and widespread adoption. And to generate jobs for U.S. workers, U.S. sourcing remains a key part of the commercial production requirements; manufacture of at least 50 percent of the LEDs, and all of the product assembly, must be done in the United States.
But to shorten the competition timeline and reduce testing costs, DOE has modified some requirements related to testing and sample size. The cost of the initial photometric testing (LM-79) will now transfer to the entrant, and DOE will take advantage of the recently adopted industry standard method for extrapolating LED lumen maintenance over time (TM-21), thus enabling a shorter period of elevated-temperature testing. In addition, some clarifications have been made, especially with respect to how multiple, competing entries will be handled. And dimming – which frequently is not needed for PAR 38 bulbs – has been eliminated as a requirement.
The L Prize partners had asked DOE at the competition’s outset to institute a rigorous evaluation process, to ensure product performance and long life. But if the evaluation takes too long, it could delay market introduction of the winning product – in turn delaying benefits to consumers. The PAR 38 process has now been streamlined to reduce total evaluation time by about 30 percent, while still ensuring a highly rigorous performance evaluation. More details on key changes to the PAR 38 competition will be shared in a March 27 webcast (details and registration link available soon).
The changes are well worth it. PAR lamps, commonly known as “spot” or “flood” lamps, are widely used in retail businesses and as outdoor security and track lights. There are about 90 million PAR 38 halogen light bulbs installed in the U.S., in residential and commercial applications. DOE estimates that switching all of them with bulbs efficient enough to win the L Prize would save the country 11 terawatt-hours of electricity per year – approximately equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of Washington, DC – and annually avoid 7 million metric tons of carbon emissions.
The reopening of the L Prize competition’s PAR 38 category will help usher in the next phase of energy-efficient lighting. While the LED PAR 38 replacements currently on the market have shown some improvement over their predecessors, they still fall well short of L Prize-winning levels, especially with regard to beam characteristics, color quality, and light output. The winning products will not only cut down significantly on energy consumption, but will also save businesses and consumers a great deal of money in the long run. And because competitions drive innovation, and innovation drives market competition, the efficiency and quality of the other lighting products on the market are sure to move steadily upward – ultimately making everyone the real winners of the L Prize.