DOE Releases Part 2 of SSL Life-Cycle Environmental Impact Study

June 29, 2012

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has published a report that looks at the direct and indirect material and process inputs to fabricate, ship, operate, and dispose of LED lamps, compared with incandescent lamps and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Entitled LED Manufacturing and Performance, it is the second part of a larger DOE project to assess the life-cycle environmental impacts and resource costs of LED lighting products in relation to comparable traditional lighting technologies.

The report uses the conclusions of Part 1, Review of the Life-Cycle Energy Consumption of Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent, and LED Lamps, as a point of departure to produce a more detailed and conservative assessment of the manufacturing process and use it to compare the three lighting technologies, taking into consideration a wider range of environmental impacts. This report is the most comprehensive study of its kind for LED products, addressing both energy and environmental impacts, and is the first public report to consider the LED manufacturing process in depth.

Among the key findings of Part 2:

  • Electricity consumption over an equivalent period of lighting service is far greater for the incandescent lamp, and is the dominant contributor to environmental impacts.
  • Because of its low efficacy, the incandescent lamp is the most environmentally harmful of the three lamp types considered, across all 15 impact measures.
  • The CFL is slightly more harmful than the 2012 LED lamp (today's LED technology) on all impact measures except hazardous waste landfill, where the LED lamp's large aluminum heat sink causes greater impact because of the energy and resources consumed in manufacturing it (which produces significant waste disposed of in landfills).
  • The best-performing light source is the LED lamp projected for 2017, whose prospective impacts are expected to be about 50 percent lower than the 2012 LED lamp and 70 percent lower than the CFL.

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