ELLWOOD CITY – Since Thomas Edison made the first successful light bulb some 130 years ago, the physics of bringing light into darkness has been relatively unchanged.
But that’s going to change soon, Dave McAnally told an audience of about 50 people Thursday in ESB Bank’s community meeting area.
“We’re on the cusp of a revolution that’s going to re-light America,” McAnally said. “We’ve tried to take the bulbs and squeeze as much gas into them and light them up. But that technology’s time has come and is on its way out.
“The day is coming when you will walk into a room and you won’t see an incandescent bulb or a fluorescent tube.”
Admittedly, McAnally, the chief executive officer of Appalachian Lighting Systems, has a vested interest in bringing that future to pass. The company, based in Wayne Township, manufactures light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures.
According to independent third-party tests, Appalachian Lighting Systems makes the world’s most energy-efficient parking garage lights. Topping that list are the lights being installed in the parking garages at Pittsburgh International Airport.
McAnally participated Thursday in a symposium on LED lighting in Ellwood City, along with officials from CREE, the Raleigh, N.C., -based company that manufactures the LED devices in Appalachian Lighting’s fixtures.
Because of CREE’s proximity to Raleigh, that city changed over most of its streetlights to LED devices, and the company declared it to be the nation’s first LED city. Ellwood City will probably be the second.
Since 2006, Ellwood City has replaced more than half of its 796 streetlights with LED fixtures and played host to Thursday’s symposium in part to convince other municipalities to follow its lead. Officials from Cranberry Township, Carnegie, Clarion, Butler, Grove City and Upper St. Clair Township in Pennsylvania, and Columbiana and Brookfield Township in Ohio attended the session.
Since the switch, the borough’s streetlight costs have decreased by approximately 80 percent, according to the DEP. Appalachian Lighting’s devices have delivered similar savings at the Allegheny County Jail and the airport.
Ty Christy, vice chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission, and Geoff Bristow of the state Department of Environmental Protection also spoke at the meeting.
Bristow cast the sole shadow over the otherwise bright forecast for LED lighting when he said many municipalities might not need savings on streetlight costs as badly as Ellwood City did.
He also said the next generation of LED lighting customers can’t expect state environmental grants like the two that Ellwood City received to install LED streetlights. Some of that grant funding came from the federal government’s stimulus program, which as expired.
Further, Bristow said the state is looking at a budget deficit and environmental programs could be on the chopping block.
With that in mind, Tanya Rings, Appalachian Lighting’s finance director, touted a no-money down plan for communities to buy LED fixtures and finance the purchase with the future utility savings.
Ron Sarnick, buildings, grounds and sustainability administrator for Upper St. Clair Township, said his municipality isn’t in need of streetlights, but could be looking to cut costs for indoor and outdoor building lighting.
“There appears to be a lot of players out there, so you had to go out and get information,” he said.
IN GROWTH MODE
Appalachian Lighting Systems is poised for significant growth in the next year, Chief Operating Officer Robert McAnally said Thursday.
The Wayne Township-based company has doubled its work force from 10 to 20 people in the past year, and is seeking major contracts in the public and private sectors.
“If we get some of these projects, we’ll see significant expansion over the next 12 months,” he said.
The company has developed a warehouse light that emits light equivalent 1,000 watts but draws only 340 watts of electricity for what McAnally called a “major manufacturer.” Testing for that manufacturer was in progress Thursday.
The growth McAnally expects would force Appalachian Lighting out of its current headquarters in Wayne Township’s Burnstown neighborhood and into a larger location, probably in the Ellwood City area, said Jim Wassel, the company’s chief science officer.
It would also mean more jobs, although McAnally declined to say exactly how many.