Lighting Prize to Reward LED Innovation
March 9, 2012 - 11:48am

The U.S. Department of Energy’s L Prize hopes to catalyze a next-generation LED replacement lamp for general home use.

In an effort to fast-track the development of a super-efficient solid-state lamp, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has formally launched the details of its Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize, or L Prize. The announcement came during this year’s Lightfair International.

The L Prize was the result of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which authorized up to $20 million in prize money to attract commercially viable replacements for two conspicuous — and ubiquitous — energy hogs: 60W incandescent bulbs and PAR 38 halogen lamps. Products that meet the L Prize’s criteria would consume about 17 percent of the energy used by today’s household incandescents.

Unlike similar programs in which lighting manufacturers must provide just a handful of viable prototypes, the L Prize requires each entrant to offer up 2,000  products ready for lighting retailers. A battery of tests awaits these candidates, measuring everything from minimum efficacy and light output to color consistency and performance in a variety of high-stress environments. In short, the next-generation bulbs will be burned, drenched, beaten and broken in the name of testing.

“We’re going to put these things through the ringer,” says Kelly Gordon, Program Manager for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNL). “It’s going to take the better part of a year to get through the evaluation.”

Gordon says PNL will conduct the tests, and she expects the process to be rather grueling.

“The bar is set pretty high on the performance requirements and the number of products [entrants] are required to submit,” Gordon says.

But that’s the point. The L Prize is a serious competition with a clear goal: dramatic leaps in energy efficiency within just a few years.

Four large utility providers in California have signed on to assist with the planning and marketing process. With their help, Gordon hopes lighting manufacturers will be drawn to the new program with the promise of cooperation and prize money.

“We’ve got the basic parameters of the program, and the rules are laid out in the evaluation-criteria document,” she says. “The technology has continued to improve so rapidly, so now it seems like this could be feasible in the relative near-term.”

For more information on the L Prize and competition requirements, visit the official contest Web site at


60W Incandescent Replacement

-- Greater than 90 lumens per watt

-- Energy usage less than 10 watts

-- Output greater than 900 lumens

-- Greater than a 25,00-hour lifespan

-- Greater than 90 color rendering index

PAR 38 Halogen Replacement

-- Greater than 123 lumens per watt

-- Energy usage less than 11 watts

-- Output greater than 1,350 lumens

-- Greater than 25,000-hour lifespan

-- Greater than 90 color rendering index 

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