SHELBY SHARES: Minnesota company builds a better lightbulb

Innovator Sudhir Singh has had a lot of bright ideas. Now he's poised to revolutionize the way the state lights its parking lots, streets and warehouses – and perhaps save taxpayers a lot of money.

Sudhir Singh has had many bright ideas. Moving to Minnesota was one of his best – for him, and for us.

His brilliance won him a place at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, often compared directly to MIT. (It's arguably the most competitive university in the world – here's a "60 Minutes" segment on IIT.)

Singh worked in Africa and Great Britain before accepting a friend’s invitation to discover the opportunities in the Land of Lakes.

Bright ideas are Singh’s business. He owns LightingHouse USA, a Minnesota-owned and operated company that retrofits old lighting technologies with new, more efficient LED units.

Singh’s system can provide the same light for parking lots, warehouses, streetlights and more – but save 70-90 percent on energy costs. Since there are approximately 120 million streetlights (6 billion bulbs) in the United States, consuming more about 28 percent of all electricity generated, a conversion to LED technology seems like a no-brainer.

Singh developed a method of replacing old high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting with LEDs by using almost all of the old system’s components. His company makes bulbs in Minnesota that fit those systems, and he hopes to open a production plant in Eveleth to produce bulbs on a mass scale.

Of course, there is an upfront cost. The LED technology, for the time being, can be as much as three or four times the cost of the older, less efficient systems. Singh says, “The old systems haven’t changed much since Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.”

But, the upfront money can be paid back in as little as four months. The LEDs save on electricity costs, of course. But, because the bulbs last so much longer, replacement dollars are saved. For government operations, the public works folks don’t have to spend as much money on maintenance.

Singh’s bright ideas have won his company honors from the Minnesota Cup, the Clean Tech Open and Tekne Awards. It has also won him a grant from the state of Minnesota to demonstrate the technology in Hibbing.

The company says the smart LEDs lights can cost an entity about $5,000 to light 100 fixtures, compared to $43,000 with the HIDs.

There's more. Singh notes that the LEDs don't heat up, so the cost of cooling a building comes down.

That is one of the reasons that the Duluth Transit Authority used LightingHouse to outfit its big bus barn. That’s why cities from Buffalo and Burnsville, all the way to Virginia and back to Woodbury have used Singh’s systems. Singh tells me one of the selling points of the system is that a number of banks offer low-interest loans to tax-exempt entities to pay for the retrofit.

Singh says, “The more a light is used, the more the system saves.” He makes the case that both environmentalists and conservative business owners like to hear: The product is recyclable, has no pollutants and conserves energy requiring less combustion of fossil fuels, and it saves operational costs and adds to the bottom line.

I ask Singh a final question as I look at the long list of cities and state agencies that have adopted his technology: Why don’t I see Minneapolis and St. Paul on the list?

“We are trying to get them to listen,” he says.

Don Shelby is a veteran Twin Cities journalist and a radio newscaster for BringMeTheNews. He worked for 32 years as anchor, investigative reporter and environmental correspondent for WCCO-TV, and for 10 years as a radio personality for WCCO-AM. He has won numerous professional awards, including two George Foster Peabody awards.

Next Up

Jamal Mashburn Jr. / Gopher basketball

Gophers offense disappears in loss to Northwestern

The Gophers are quickly falling out of NCAA tournament contention.

Malik Beasley

Timberwolves Malik Beasley suspended 12 games for offseason incident

Beasley was sentenced to 120 days in jail earlier this month.

Russell Wilson

Vikings fans should REALLY hope Russell Wilson doesn't go to the Bears

Wilson has a 6-0 record against Minnesota and could be on his way to the NFC North.


Celebrated Minnesota musician Peter Ostroushko dies

Ostroushko, who learned his craft in the Ukrainian community of Northeast Minneapolis, had a versatile career including performances with popular artists and orchestras


Costco will bump its minimum wage to $16 next week

The company, which has 12 stores in Minnesota, is pushing ahead of retailers Target and Amazon with its new minimum wage

Seth Green/Gopher Football

Gophers wildcat QB Seth Green announces decision to transfer

Green will have immediate eligibility as a graduate transfer.

Minneapolis skyline

Minneapolis pays 3 times more than it receives in state funds, new report says

This report comes as state lawmakers are debating proposals opponents say would "bail out" the state's largest city.

Kirk Cousins

Coller: Is Kirk Cousins' contract extension helping or hurting the Vikings?

Matthew Coller writes a weekly Vikings column for BMTN, with more of his work found at Purple Insider.

University of minnesota sign

U of M gets $5M donation for new center to address racial inequality in healthcare

Using a donation from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the School of Public Health will work to address racial disparities in healthcare.


SHELBY SHARES: Entrepreneurs compete for cash, prestige at Minnesota Cup

About 1,000 inventors and innovators entered the eighth annual Minnesota Cup competition this year, each with a bright idea that they hoped would awe the judges – and maybe change the world. Only six made the finals.

SHELBY SHARES: Is this the next big ... thing?

Ron Whitehouse of Plymouth, Minn., has a track record for seeing the future for certain products. Now he's got a new idea for a sustainable building material made of polylactic acid and plant materials, including leaves and nut shells.

SHELBY SHARES: Veteran community journalist retires with ink in her veins

Journalism evolved a lot in the 40-year career of Sue Webber, a community newspaper reporter who once toiled on a manual typewriter. But her commitment to telling people's stories never changed. Webber gave her readers decades of service – and they gave her their trust.

SHELBY SHARES: Turkeys, avionics and renewable energy in Starbuck, Minn.

Randy Hagen is a farmboy. He raises turkey hatchlings for some of the biggest turkey producers around. He also likes flying. So, how is it possible that this guy from western Minnesota has come up with one of the most notable renewable energy products we've seen in a long time?

3M, Cargill, General Mills among companies to share energy secrets

Several companies gathered to swap power-saving tips at 3M's energy-efficiency summit on Monday. The Maplewood-based company touted its plan to change light bulbs across 35 million square feet of factory space, the Star Tribune reports.

Shelby Shares: Fishing opener serious business's Don Shelby travels to Waconia for the Governor's Fishing Opener. Sure, it's fun -- but the real angle is that fishing is serious business for the state of Minnesota.

SHELBY SHARES: Sauk Centre celebrates native son Sinclair Lewis

You may know Sinclair Lewis was born in Minnesota, and that he was the first American awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. But you probably don't know the Lewis secret that inspired what is now an annual writers conference in Sauk Centre.

New Minnesota 'plastic lumber' company building from ground up

Rochester-based Envirolastech has developed a new kind of plastic that company founders say can replace lumber in construction. The product outperforms wood in strength tests, won't split, rot or fade, and it gets stronger in cold weather, not more brittle like most plastics, company founders say. They plan to launch manufacturing operations next year, Finance and Commerce reports.