Held Dec. 5, 2012, the third annual "Control This!" conference, sponsored by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) New York chapter, offered the latest developments in lighting controls and energy management. Featuring three educational seminars and more than 40 exhibiters, the meeting provided attendees with information on the design, construction, and commissioning of lighting control systems. One key take away from the event is that single-pole, 3-way, and 4-way wall switches could one day be replaced by sensor/control devices in the foreseeable future.

The sessions

In "Introduction to Lighting Controls," Gabe Arnold, Optimal Energy, provided basic information on the various types of control systems, typical applications, potential savings, and requirements to meet energy code compliance. Arnold noted that a lighting control system can maximize the efficiency of a lighting design while being cost effective. For example, the field of lighting controls for street lighting is largely undeveloped; however, it holds great potential for energy savings. LED lighting equipment installed today should be able to take advantage of networked lighting control technology at a later date. Thus, the DOE's Model Specification for LED Roadway Luminaires contains an optional clause that requires the luminaire/driver be able to accept a control signal and to dim in response to some future control scheme.

In Vermont, the barriers to moving forward with LED street lighting have been largely overcome. The state's three largest electric utilities have filed rate tariffs for LED street lighting and received regulatory approval in 2011. The LED rate tariffs are financially attractive to the utility's customers, offering up to 25% in savings on utility bills. What's more, most municipalities and utility customers will be able to proceed with the LED conversion at no capital expense.

In "Hybrid Power and the DC MicroGrid: Innovative Approaches for Powering Low Energy Buildings," Brian Patterson, EMerge Alliance, discussed the Alliance's two recently released DC power standards (the 24VDC for commercial building use and the 390VDC standard for data center applications). Descriptions of hybrid-powered buildings and the simplicity of direct-current power distribution was covered along with the integration of renewable energy sources and lighting systems in the Smart Building/Smart Grid. The use of DC power distribution system in a building offers numerous benefits — from energy savings to design and space flexibility to easier incorporation of renewable energy sources, such as photovoltaic arrays.

The Alliance, which has grown to more than 100 members, foresees DC architecture as being scalable from a single data/telecom center to modular additions and even to entire new, or most existing buildings, over time, using a DC microgrid distributed network topology as an overlay to the standard AC power distribution system. The integration of on-site renewable or other energy sources at any time is also easier to accomplish due to the non-synchronous nature of the DC bus power architecture.

A microgrid is an electric distribution system consisting of loads and energy resources (such as generators, fuel cells, renewable energy sources, energy storage devices, serving specific loads) that can be operated connected to, or disconnected from, the utility power network, allowing it to be sustainable in a power blackout. The recent week-long loss of power in lower Manhattan raised the interest of attendees in the EMerge Alliance booth, seeing it as a technology that could mitigate financial losses in a power outage. The "Control This!" conference was postponed because of the damage from Hurricane Sandy.

The recently opened 4,900-sq-ft PNC Bank branch in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is expected to be a net-zero energy facility by producing more energy than it consumes. A roof-mounted, solar electric system powers a direct-current (DC) ceiling grid system (an EMerge Alliance registered product) that serves the LED interior lighting system.

The Alliance is also busy in several other areas, such as technical committee work on standards for building services, (e.g. HVAC), and standards for outdoor applications, such as electric vehicle charging.

In "Lighting Control Protocols: the Building Blocks of Lighting Control – A Review of IES TM23-11," Shoshanna Segal, lighting designer and Mitch Hefter, Philips Controls, reviewed the definitions of the commonly used terms and concepts in the control industry today. This was followed by an analysis of the capabilities and shortcomings of the popular communications protocol used today, such as 1VDC to 10VDC analog protocol, the DALI digital control protocol, and DMZ protocol, along with interoperability and commissioning issues.

Product solutions on display

Philips Control recently introduced a digital lighting control system for applications when rewiring is not desirable, or feasible, such as in historic buildings (where additional penetrations cannot be made to the exterior walls), in-ground systems, bridges and campus roadways and walkways. The system distributes digital control data from a DMX or Ethernet controller, using the electrical power conductors as the media for the control circuit. The network protocol is a new, narrow-band, power line communication standard, called G3-PLC, which uses the lower carrier frequencies and slower data rates to provide reliable service. Using the adaptive orthogonal frequency division modulation (OFDM) technology, multiple channels (or tones) are carried across an assigned spectrum. The protocol handles speeds up to 300kbps, offers mesh networking capability, a robust mode for high-noise conditions, adaptive tone mapping for optimal bandwidth utilization, filtering techniques, two layers of forward error correction (FEC), and sophisticated routing algorithms to ensure throughput. Several other standards, such as IEEE P1901.2, ITU G.hn, and IEC/CENELEC are interoperable with the current G3-PLC specification.

Cooper Lighting offers digitally addressable lighting interface (DALI) control solutions to lighting designers and engineers with the acquisition of Fifth Light Technology, Ltd., allowing the measurement and control of energy consumption down to individual lighting fixtures. The digital addressable control wiring system uses two conductors, with a maximum potential of 18V between them (and very little current), to send command and status information as digital binary messages, unlike analog control wiring, which sends commands based on a voltage level and therefore draws current. Additionally, the reduced labor and energy cost of the networked lighting control systems can outweigh the higher equipment and commissioning costs.

Acuity Brands' Sensor Switch product line integrates time-based, sensor-based and manual lighting controls for indoor and outdoor applications. Every device in every zone, or network, is digitally addressable, and is able to make its own switching and dimming decisions. This enables the lighting system layout to have relays and dimming outputs located within sensors, photocells, and wall stations — not just in relay-only devices, such as room controllers or panels, minimizing device count and wiring. The company also offers the WSD NGX, a wall switch occupancy sensor with a convertible neutral/ground connection, allowing an electrical contractor to achieve a code compliant installation by using either the neutral conductor required by NEC 2011 for new construction projects, or it can use the ground connection, which is a common wiring method for many retrofit applications.

Sylvania Lighting's light management systems include products that reduce energy use and enhance architectural effects with a variety of lighting designs. The Encellium system is a DALI-based, addressable light control/energy management system that provides a graphic representation of real time power use in a building and energy history (trends). The booth also displayed a 2x2, 24VDC powered LED lighting fixture that is an EMerge Alliance registered product.

SIDEBAR: PlugFest

A new event, called a Lighting PlugFest, allowed OEM vendors of LED lamps, fixtures, transformers, and dimmers to bring their existing and new products to a booth to test them for interoperability with other vendors' products. Lighting manufacturer Soraa managed and ran the tests using a custom-built testing panel. One of the greatest hurdles to the adoption of LED lighting today is the incompatibility between LED light sources and the installed base of legacy control equipment and dimmers, which are predominantly designed for incandescent, halogen, or fluorescent lamps. Additionally, Soraa recently introduced the industry's first fixture validation program, allowing LED fixture/lamp combinations to be validated for mechanical, thermal, and electrical compatibility.