Sustainable Cities™

Torraca: LED illuminating the city

In 2007, the town of Torraca in southern Italy, made a decision to replace the incandescent lights in all its street lamps with light emitting diodes (LEDs). These are powered by three solar energy stations, allowing this portion of Torraca’s public infrastructure to be entirely self-sufficient and run 100 percent off-grid. A total of 700 new lamps, each holding 54 individual LEDs, have resulted in a 70 percent saving in urban energy and maintenance costs.

Torraca oplyst af LED lys. Foto af Filadelfio Cammarano, venligst udlånt af ELETTRONICA GELBISON ©.

Torraca comes from the word "turris" meaning tower. The village has grown around its defence tower, originating from Norman times and later expanded to include a castle and a palace. Like many old Italian towns, Torraca is characterized by its terraces, alleys, portals and yards. These unique historic features are now lit-up by a new system of street lamps without the town having to waste energy and public expenditure unnecessarily.

The Mayor and the Municipal Administration of Torraca decided to focus on both environmental protection and sustainable development by expanding their use of renewable energy and by increasing the town's energy efficiency. In 2007, these commitments lead Torraca to convert all of its outdoor lighting to LED. There are 700 new lamps in total. Each one is made up of 54 individual LED point lights which are collected together inside the traditional lantern casing. This has been patented as "the Torraca lantern", by Italian electronics company, Gelbison Electronic.

LED Street lights in Torraca. Photo by Filadelfio Cammarano, courtesy of ELETTRONICA GELBISON ©.

LED lighting is more energy efficient and more cost efficient that incandescent lighting since the energy output is higher relative to input, the light itself is more durable and less likely to break, and LEDs last a lot longer."The average bulb is on two hours a day. At that rate, an LED would last 136 years. If you bought a fixture and only used it two hours a day, it would last longer than your house. It would last longer than you," says Mark McClear, director of business development at Durham, N.C.-based LED-maker Cree, Inc., manufacturer of LEDs in Torraca's streetlamps.

The LED street lamp system requires a total input of 35,000 watts. This is supplied by three new solar energy plants which generate 150,000 watts of electricity via photovoltaic (PV) panels. Torraca has also built a factory in connection with these facilities in order to manufacture photovoltaic modules and research new advances in technology and infrastructure.

The University of Naples Federico II has joined Torraca as a partner in a regional consortium called, 'Cilento e Vallo di Diano'. The university has initiated a master's course entitled, 'Environmental and Technical Legislation of Renewable Energy' and a degree course in 'Political Sciences: International Cooperation for Environment and Energy'. Today, Torraca's brand of 'LED-city' attracts both local and international visitors represented by a diverse range of sectors including entrepreneurs, municipalities, engineers, designers and academic researchers.

"Forcing electricity though a filament and heating it up to the point where it emits light, [is] horribly inefficient, in the order of 95 percent inefficient. The best LEDs are in the order of 35 percent more efficient." Mark McClear, Durham, N.C.-based LED-maker Cree, Inc.

More light, less energy, less waste

LED lighting is a lot more energy efficient than traditional incandescent lighting. This immediately makes the use of renewable energy sources more economically viable. Generating one unit of renewable energy is currently more expensive than generating the same unit from a fossil fuel source, but since connection to an LED lighting system achieves a greater energy output, relative to input than an incandescent light source, then this combination can overcome the initial expense. Despite the initial higher costs of both the infrastructure for solar power and the LEDs themselves, the long term result is one of more for less; more energy output from less input, less waste, less maintenance and therefore less long-term cost.

Critique of the 'cold' light

Criticism from the design industry that LEDs emit a 'cold' light, can be weighed up against a variety of new possibilities for controlling the light source, its brightness levels, colour combinations and pattern effects. In Torraca, each street lamp can be even controlled individually and remotely via the internet or if required, via mobile phone.


Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014