Lighting the Way

Energy Efficient Lighting Leads to Cost Reductions at Detroit-Windsor Tunnel

Constructed in 1930, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel was an engineering feat unlike anything else at the time. The nearly one-mile stretch of subterranean passage was known from Toronto to Washington as a quick and efficient way to navigate between the United States and Canada. The tunnel, chosen in lieu of a bridge over the Detroit River, continues to accommodate roughly 27,000 vehicles each day and about 9 million every year. Its roadway encompasses roughly four acres and requires a massive amount of artificial light — more than 570 fixtures — to illuminate the large, underground passage.

Although it continues to provide quick and easy access for travelers moving to and from the Motor City, the tunnel’s dated lighting technology, even after an extensive renovation in 1993, continued to pose a challenge for the operator, Detroit-Windsor Tunnel LLC. To help identify possible solutions to improve both safety and energy efficiency, the operator called upon the University of Windsor Research Collaboration. After spending three days in the tunnel conducting studies on the current metal halide fixtures, they found that electricity costs (more than $160,000 each year) were listed as the single, largest expense associated with the tunnel.

To help reduce costs and improve overall safety, the Collaboration recommended that the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel update its current fixtures to feature either light emitting diode (LED) or induction lighting systems. Major manufacturers, including Cooper Lighting, were contacted to submit possible product solutions that would achieve the overall goals of providing safe, efficient lighting while also adhering to any and all federal and international tunnel lighting standards and providing a cost-effective solution.

“Meeting standards that also provided quality, cost-efficient lighting was paramount to Detroit-Windsor Tunnel LLC and the City of Windsor,” said Neal Belitsky, CEO of Detroit-Windsor Tunnel LLC.

Upon reviewing the request for proposal (RFP), which was completed by the installer, Motor City Electric, Cooper Lighting, a division of Cooper Industries plc, identified the McGraw-Edison Valet LED parking garage luminaire as the ideal choice for this particular project. The Valet LED luminaire, featuring a rugged and low-profile housing, incorporates patent-pending, modular LED LightBAR technology for performance and energy efficiency.

The Valet LED luminaire delivers a uniform and energy-conscious illumination optimized to improve vehicular movement — ideal for this specific application. Additionally, the LightBAR technology features Cooper’s patented AccuLED Optics, which provides shaped distributions and scalability to meet the exact needs of each specific requirement. For added durability, its one-piece, die-cast aluminum housing also offers a heavy wall construction for superior heat transfer and reliable performance for a wide range of temperatures from as low as minus 22 F and as high as 104 F.

Since Cooper’s Valet LED luminaire is available in one to four LightBAR configurations with a choice of 11 high-efficiency optical systems, it represented an ideal solution for the tunnel.

“After reading through the RFP provided by the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, our team had a pretty good idea of what product would provide the best solution,” said Mark Ireland, project manager for Motor City Electric, installer for the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel project. “With the help of the folks at Cooper Lighting we were able to spec out their Valet LED fixtures and provide the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel with a great deal of information to state our case. We showed that choosing Cooper’s Valet LED luminaire would not only provides ample, efficient light but also help save the authority a great deal of money. In fact, choosing Cooper’s Valet LED lights would reduce the tunnel’s overall lighting cost to just a fraction of what the owner had previously been paying and ensure that the tunnel was well lit and that each driver was safe.”

In addition to the energy and cost savings, each fixture also comes with options, including glare light eliminator optics that have the ability to shield high angle light from oncoming drivers. And, to keep with the overall goal of reducing energy dependence, each fixture offers up to 75 percent energy savings over traditional sources when utilizing equivalent LED LightBAR configurations in conjunction with optional bi-level switching.

While providing ample lighting and reducing energy were the main focus of the original audit, the University of Windsor Research Collaboration team also identified overall product performance and service life as being major concerns. In addition to warm-up and cool-down times that both consumed energy and drained product life, the existing metal halide fixtures needed to be replaced every two years, causing sporadic lane or complete project closures. Besides simply saving money, the chosen solution would also need to provide on-demand lighting and extended life.

Cooper Lighting’s Valet LED luminaire addressed both issues and presented an additional cost-saving benefit. Instead of having to replace the units every two years, as is the case with metal halide, LED lighting offers life cycles that are up to five times longer. From a productivity standpoint, that meant reducing tunnel closures and delays due to maintenance and presented another option for cost-efficiency.

During the initial design phase, it was also realized that choosing the Valet LED luminaire would allow for added efficiencies. While the previous fixtures needed to be placed every 20 ft on center, allowing for complete coverage during warm-up and cool-down periods, the Valet LED fixtures and their increased light output, along with instant-on feature, allowed for extended spacing between fixtures. Instead of placing one fixture every 20 ft, the lighting fixtures could be spaced at 40-ft intervals due to increased lighting coverage. The increased spacing was able to cut lighting needs in half except at the portals and entrances, which require additional light and closer fixtures.
Robert Howell, the Tunnel’s project manager noted that the system should provide the efficiencies to qualify for local energy supplier green rebates.

While the project isn’t slated to be complete until mid-November 2011, initial findings show a significant amount of savings for the operator and City of Windsor. The overall number of fixtures has decreased from 570 to just 480, wattage use per hour has dropped a dramatic 135,810 watts/hour from 185,250 to 49,440, and the cost per year has plummeted about 72 percent from more than $160,000 to just under $45,000. When evaluating the project over a timeframe of 10 years, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel will have saved more than $1.18 million dollars on energy costs.

This article was based on information supplied by Cooper Lighting.

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