Can you actually explain what makes LEDs so special?


Two years ago, a 60-watt equivalent LED bulb cost $30.  That’s an expensive bulb.  But now, you can buy that same light at Home Depot for $10.

“And it’s not just the cost that’s coming down,” says Ron Pernick, co-founder of Clean Edge, “but the ability for LED lighting manufacturers to develop application-specific lighting.”

Panasonic garden_600x450_57bee757c3

Clean Edge has many valuable resources on this topic and we are going to expand on them in part 2 of this piece.  Especially as Pernick goes on to talk about specific companies that we want to compare like Philips.  We’re also going to talk about how LED lights boost the sustainability and regenerative capacity of vertical farming.  I started discussions on the environmental impacts of vertical farms here and here, but I want to expand it beyond sustainability and examine the idea of a regenerative industry.

For now, I want to leave you with one closing thought.  In vertical farming, it comes down to producing calories people want to buy (assuming your product is food of course).  To make money, you need to produce those calories efficiently.  That efficiency is measured in terms of kilowatt-hour per gram of product, and to get the best ratio for that, you’ll need LEDs.

Higher efficiency means less spent on energy, and more light produced for your dollar.  More light produced means more plants grown, and more plants grown means more success for vertical farming.

By the way…

We’ve had a lot of growth on this site, almost as soon as we started posting.  We’re glad you guys love it and we want to thank you.  So to do it, the Urban Vertical Project is developing a killer presentation template for an amazing vertical farm funding pitch and we’re giving it away for free for a limited time! It’s based off a real pitch we saw that got funded and we know you’re going to love it.  To hear about it before anyone else, sign up for our newsletter below (just your first name and email, and we really, really won’t send you too much stuff).

sign me up button

11 thoughts on “Can you actually explain what makes LEDs so special?

  1. Pingback: Top 5 Required Readings For Vertical Farming | The Urban Vertical Project

  2. Pingback: The Urban Vertical Project

  3. Pingback: The Urban Vertical Project

  4. Pingback: The Expert Vertical Farming Business Model From Indoor Harvest | The Urban Vertical Project

  5. Pingback: ICCEA Panama 2015 Recap | The Urban Vertical Project

  6. Pingback: NPR Frames the Artificial Lighting Debate | The Urban Vertical Project

  7. Pingback: Simple Secrets To Start A Vertical Farm | The Urban Vertical Project

  8. There is no doubt that LEDs are the future, but are they the present?

    No. Not at all.

    You will save yourself around 20 watts for the same square foot coverage. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately it will take 50 hours to reach a single kWh (that is at 12 hours a day, which is quite common for leafy greens).

    Here comes the tricky part: How much are you paying for your kWh? The higher the cost of your electricity, the more sense it will make to get LEDs, but let’s say the standard price in the US is 10 cents (In Spain I get them for 0.06€).

    Every 4 days you will save yourself 10 cents in electricity. Every 40 days you’ll save yourself an entire dollar.

    How much does a 4-foot fluorescent tube cost? Around 1 dollar getting them in bulk from the manufacturer (which all vertical farms should obviously do). The cheapest 4-foot LEDs you can find will be 100 bucks.

    How long will it take to get that initial cost back due to your energy savings? Those extra 99 dollars, saving 1 dollar every 40 days means … 99 times 40 days … 3,960, over 10 years.

    Yes, you’ll also have to get reflectors for your fluorescents – 99.85% reflective anodized aluminum cost less than 4 euros each, and will last decades providing proper maintenance. Those 4 euros won’t be a problem either.

    As for HVAC costs: LEDs and fluorescent tubes aren’t any different in heat (BTU) production. The reason LEDs are usually said to “emit less heat” is simply because less watts run through them. Of course 35 watts will emit less heat than 54w, but again, looking at how much it will cost to cool your growing area (each watt will mean 3.41 BTU of heat) it would take many, many years to get back the money you invested in your LEDs. The exact numbers are difficult to get, since it depends on your climate and the temperature you want your grow room to be at, but summing up, saving yourself 68 BTU per 4-foot luminaire isn’t going to offset those extra 99 bucks you paid for your LED (and that’s going with the cheapest available)

    Sorry for the rant but the numbers still don’t work out. Let’s talk again in 2020, when I’m sure LEDs will be cheap enough to finally kick fluorescents out of vertical farms forever.

  9. Pingback: LED Light Buying Guide For Vertical Farming | The Urban Vertical Farming Project

  10. Pingback: LED Light Buying Guide For Vertical Farming | The Urban Vertical Farming Project

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s