The U.S. Department of Energy is offering $10 million to whoever discovers the first energy-efficient alternatives for outdated incandescent and halogen lights.
The Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize, dubbed the "L Prize," has a goal of reducing lighting energy usage in the country by one-third. To accomplish that, the competition is encouraging the development of LED replacements for two of the most popular, yet inefficient, light bulbs: the 60-watt incandescent bulb and PAR-38 halogen reflector lamp.
According to the Web site, “The L Prize competition will accelerate America's shift from inefficient, dated lighting products to innovative, high-performance solid-state lighting products that will save significant amounts of energy and millions of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.”
Philips Electronics submitted the first entry to the government on Sept. 24, submitting 2,000 prototypes for the next step of the competition.
The bulb will now go through a multiphase evaluation process. In addition to performance and lifetime testing, the DOE is using stress testing under extreme conditions and field assessments.
Entrants must meet specific requirements with their bulbs. All must be at least 75 percent produced in the U.S. Incandescent replacements must be less than 10 watts and have more than a 25,000-hour lifespan. The halogen replacement must have the same lifespan, but be less than 11 watts.
The competition promises to have a great effect on energy usage in the U.S. In 2010, the DOE estimates that about 971 million 60-watt incandescent bulbs will be installed and used for approximately 700 hours per year. By reducing the bulbs to use only 10 watts, 83 percent of lighting energy used will be saved.
The halogen lamp is also sure to have a significant impact. There are around 141 million lamps in the U.S. If they were all to be changed to the L Prize lamp, 2.6 million metric tons of carbon emissions would be avoided. Those savings are equal to the annual electricity consumption for the entire state of Wyoming, or the city of Las Vegas.
"This is the beginning of the end for the common light bulb," David Rodgers of the DOE told LEDs Magazine.
Around the country, individual state efforts have been made in California, Connecticut and New Jersey to decrease the availability and usage of incandescent bulbs. But federal legislation passed in 2007 overshadowed those movements with the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007. Under the law, all incandescent bulbs will be phased out by 2014. The standards will begin with the 100-watt bulb in 2012.
In place of incandescent bulbs, the use of LED and CFL light bulbs is encouraged. But while LEDs and CFLs save energy, there is also a great risk for the environment. Both must be recycled properly. For example, CFL bulbs can contain up to 5 milligrams of mercury, which can be released when broken during improper disposal.