Redwood Systems has launched a network-based LED lighting technology for commercial buildings.  It optimizes energy-efficiency for commercial lighting and provides comprehensive sensor data for building performance.

by Tracey de Morsella, Green Economy Post

There has been a surge of interest by the business community in LED lighting that uses less energy, because lighting makes up such a huge portion of the energy bill for most commercial enterprises. Redwood Systems, a startup in Fremont, CA has developed a new approach to LED lighting uses network cables, rather than conventional electrical wiring, to supply power to lights.  The system also allows the cables to carry data from an array of sensors on the lights to a central control station.  Power consumption from lighting was reduced by 50 to 80 percent because it can sense and control every light in a building, ensuring that lights are only on when required.

By taking advantage of the fact that they run on low-voltage direct current power, the new system offers a better way to control LEDs, which are relatively efficient and long-lasting compared to conventional lights.  The Redwoood Systems LED lighting systems provide a more efficient way to convert currents than Current LED-based systems, which require transformers at each light to convert the higher-voltage alternating current in conventional wiring into lower-voltage direct current.  The new system converts alternating current to low-voltage direct current at a central location, rather than at each light.

The system will be tested in some of the Rudin Management Company’s buildings as part of  a smart grid demonstration program conducted by Consolidated Edison. According to John Gilbert, Chief Operating Officer, Redwood’s technology facilitates “truly intelligent lighting.”

“The holy grail right now for real estate is creating interoperability between information technology networks and the electrical grid.” Mr. Gilbert said. “Your ability to run an efficient building is important in order to remain competitive.”

According to Jeremy Stieglitz, Vice President of Marketing, the technology-heavy approach can deliver a return on investment in two years for commercial spaces and will deliver more than 90% of the input power to the LED.

Redwood Systems d in 2008 and received $12 in funding from Battery Ventures and US Venture Partners.  The team running the show has extensive backgrounds in the design of high-performance networking systems that are deployed in thousands of enterprises worldwide. Leading the company is Dave Leonard, CEO, who was  General Manager of Cisco’s Ethernet Switching Business Unit and Mark Covaro, CTO and former principal power design engineer for Cisco’s widely deployed power-over-Ethernet platform.

“Redwood’s vision is to use LED lighting’s low voltage to power not just lighting, but create a digital network to manage and efficiently optimize lighting, heating, venting, air conditioning, plug loads, window shading, and just about everything else that uses power in a building,” said Leonard. “Using a network-based platform approach, we will deliver smart lighting systems that revolutionize how lights, and buildings, are powered, controlled, and optimized.”

Each light comes equipped with six sensors. Two are similar to what’s used in some newer lighting systems–they detect motion and ambient light (used to turn off lights when there’s enough daylight). But where conventional systems control all the lights for an entire room or open cubicle area, the new system allows for control at each light. So the system could, for example, compensate for lower daylight levels further from windows, or dim lights in a large space where no one is working. The new system also monitors task lighting with a third sensor, to ensure that desktops are receiving enough light (something individuals could set according to their preference).  Lights can be dimmed when workers leave an area and tuning lights to a task.  Redwood’s 25 employees will soon be able to control the lights over their desks using their Blackberries or iPhones.

LED Network System Architecture
LED Network System Architecture

The system could also optimize energy use based on utility rates and pricing programs and the instrumentation capability allows management of lumen depreciation and ensures the system doesn’t over-drive the lights.

Additional energy savings comes from using sensors and a central controller to reduce light use. The company has also developed a method for using those same power cables to carry data. Each LED can be fitted with inexpensive sensors that provide detailed information about temperature and where people are in the building.  This is information that can be used to control cooling and heating systems. These sensors can be also be used to optimize light levels and ensure the lights are operating efficiently. Such sensors can also  The sensing and controls add very little cost to the new system because the network connections and power supply for the sensors are already in place.

How Redwood Systems saves money
How Redwood Systems saves money

“Redwood Systems has the potential for a new and better way to power and control LED lighting that could add significant intelligence to lighting systems and accelerate customer ROI through energy savings and reduced installation costs,” said Gary Trott, vice president of market development of Cree, a LED and lighting manufacturer.

The Redwood scheme  is most suited for commercial and office applications, as well as schools and data centers undergoing new construction or major remodels because it relies on a new way to distribute power to the lights. Redwood is currently conducting ongoing field trials of its technology and will debut the system in May at Lightfair in Las Vegas.   They will start selling its systems this summer.  Redwood will sell its products primarily through electrical contractors.  Redwood Systems has recently been awarded the Department of Energy Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to advance its solid state lighting technology.

© 2010, Tracey de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Tracey de Morsella (323 Articles)

Tracey de Morsella started her career working as an editor for US Technology Magazine. She used that experience to launch Delaware Valley Network, a publication for professionals in the Greater Philadelphia area. Years later, she used the contacts and resources she acquired to work in executive search specializing in technical and diversity recruitment. She has conducted recruitment training seminars for Wachovia Bank, the Department of Interior and the US Postal Service. During this time, she also created a diversity portal called The Multicultural Advantage and published the Diversity Recruitment Advertising Toolkit, a directory of recruiting resources for human resources professionals. Her career and recruitment articles have appeared in numerous publications and web portals including Woman Engineer Magazine, Monster.com, About.com Job Search Channel, Workplace Diversity Magazine, Society for Human Resource Management web site, NSBE Engineering Magazine, HR.com, and Human Resource Consultants Association Newsletter. Her work with technology professionals drew her to pursuing training and work in web development, which led to a stint at Merrill Lynch as an Intranet Manager. In March, she decided to combine her technical and career management expertise with her passion for the environment, and with her husband, launched The Green Economy Post, a blog providing green career information and covering the impact of the environment, sustainable building, cleantech and renewable energy on the US economy. Her sustainability articles have appeared on Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation, Chem.Info,FastCompany and CleanTechies.