ONCE Seeks Partners and Industry Advocates to Establish New Agricultural LED Lighting Category to Overcome ENERGY STAR Shortcomings

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ONCE, an LED technology company, seeks partners and industry advocates to help establish a new LED lighting category for the Agricultural Industry due to shortcomings in the current ENERGY STAR and Design Lights Consortium standards. The category will help local utilities and farmers with rebate programs and the selection of safe, appropriate LED light fixtures for Agricultural facilities.

ONCE, an LED technology company, is reaching out to the solid state lighting community as well as the Agricultural lighting user community for help in establishing a new global category for LED lighting used in Agricultural installations. This category has been overlooked by regulating agencies and utility companies alike even though it is a prime industry for considerable reductions in energy usage--especially in the area of LED Lighting. Recent conversations with ENERGY STAR and Design Lights Consortium have resulted in no progress toward achieving a new category in order for the Agricultural community to participate in federal and local rebate dollar programs. Local utilities who oversee the rebate programs are approving sub-standard residential lighting for use in agricultural buildings, potentially violating the national electric code, creating hazardous conditions, and causing higher conversion costs for cash-strapped farmers. Parties with mutual interest in this topic should contact ONCE to discuss the next steps of action.

Agricultural environments for LED lighting are unlike residential installations and more similar to industrial environments due to the extreme environmental conditions such as dust, dirt, moisture and vibrations from machinery. These conditions necessitate the need for a stricter set of electrical operating regulations called out in National Electric Code Section 547 for Agricultural Buildings. Like industrial operations, agricultural electricity usage is typically much higher than in residential installations due to the long hours of operation inside the buildings making them especially suitable for energy efficiency paybacks and targets for utilities and environmental rebate programs. A flaw develops when rebate agencies must rely on the standards bodies like the DOE (through Energy Star) or Design Lights Consortium (DLC) to create standards categories to meet minimum performance and safety standards. To date, neither agency has developed an Agricultural category so farmers and the Agricultural industry are losing out on rebate dollars and energy savings or, worse yet, using inferior LED lighting designed for residential environments that may compromise safety and violate the law.

Without true Agricultural standards, the Agricultural industry is forced to use Energy Star qualified lighting designed for residential buildings because these lamps are the only ones available for rebates. This is especially alarming because most barns are harsh environments due to the presence of fine particulate dust, the need for high-pressure washing and the corrosive, high-humidity vapors of animal excrement. The National Electrical Code recognizes this and calls for lighting in "Agricultural Buildings" to be “listed as suitable for use in wet locations” (NEC 547) which keeps the electricity in and the elements out. Most residential lights are not wet location rated and could pose a threat to the safety of the animals and people working there. Unsuspecting farmers may also be voiding the manufacturer warranties on the residential LED lights since the installation is in an unintended location and in violation of NEC 547. Brian Wilcox, President of Once, observes, "An Agricultural category and specification, compliant with existing electric codes should be created to offer farming consumers a choice for safe, energy-efficient LED lighting solutions eligible for the same rebate dollars as other industries or residential installations. Without a category and specification, the potential energy savings of 2 billion kWh (kilowatt-hours), or roughly the energy produced by a small nuclear power plant, is being foreclosed upon. Without a consortium of rural-based utilities setting standards, the industry is left waiting, most likely for a long time, for the DOE through ENERGY STAR, or the DLC, to provide the Agricultural community with guidance."

The Agricultural community has traditionally been quick to adopt new energy saving technologies due to the low operating margins where every dollar saved goes to the bottom line. A good example is the corn industry where many farmers have upgraded to more efficient propane grain dryers to benefit from the energy savings. Getting a standard in place so utilities can offer rebates to the Agricultural Industry should result in a quick switch to LED lighting since farmers would see significant reductions in their lighting bills.

Interested parties should contact Brian Wilcox, President, ONCE, to discuss the benefits of teaming up to solve this. Open discussions of this issue, sharing of market analysis, and uniting in a common voice are going to be required to motivate the standards bodies and get this issue moving along.

About ONCE:

ONCE Innovations is a privately held LED technology development company with a primary focus on the research, development and commercialization of animal-specific, production-enhancing LED lighting systems. Since its inception in 2008, ONCE has developed a significant portfolio of over 80 patents and patents applications related to both LED lighting and animal production-enhancing technologies. ONCE is the global leader in agricultural lighting. To help fund its growth, ONCE is licensing a portion of its technologies to the non-agricultural, General Illumination market. Early licensees include two of the top ten global LED lighting manufacturers. The ONCE technology research, marketing, and product development campus is located in Plymouth, MN, United States of America.

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Brian Wilcox
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Theron Makley
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