The Department of Energy is offering big bucks — up to $10 million, to be exact — to the first company that gives most common household light bulb, the 60-watt incandescent, an energy-efficient makeover. While last week I reported that Panasonic is “LEDing” the way with LED bulb technology in the Japanese market, it looks like Dutch (quite a Holland-centric week!) company Philips is the frontrunner in this big money, homegrown contest called the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prizes or, simply, the L Prize.

The way the contest works is quite simple although the requirements for winning will revolutionize lighting: the DOE awards whichever company is first to submit an energy-friendly reproduction of the 60-watt incandescent, the bulb that represents 50 percent of all lighting in the US. Philips announced yesterday that they were the first formal entrant in the L Prize so provided that the bulb passes a rigorous, yearlong evaluation and testing period, they win not only the cash prize but also consideration for federal purchasing agreements and other incentives.

Philips has already sent out 2,000 prototype bulbs to the DOE. To qualify, the bulbs must be 10-watts but produce the same amount of light and color as 60-watters. They also must last 25,000 hours … 25 times longer than the standard bulb.

It seems that there isn’t much finger crossing going on over at Philips, however, with company CEO Rudy Provoost saying, “Philips is confident that the product submitted meets or exceeds all of the criteria for the L Prize.”

Whether Philips walks away with prize or not, the eco-boons resulting from a LED clone of a 60-watt incandescent are huge. According to the DOE, if the 425 million 60-watt incandescent bulbs sold each year in the US were replaced with the L-Prize winner, enough power would be saved to light 17.4 million households (twice the annual energy consumption of Las Vegas) and curb CO2 emissions by 5.6 million metric tons a year.

It’s expected that down the sometime down the line LED lamps will lower in cost and sell for about the same as a CFL equivalent. 

Via [New York Times]

Photo: nubsqueak

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Philips has a bright idea
Philips is the first entrant in the L Prize contest that awards a pretty penny to the first company to develop a low-energy 60-watt light bulb.