Utility Substation in U.S. Transformed into Lighting Art

Against the night sky in Redmond, Washington, U.S, an electrical transmission tower stands out in a surprisingly beautiful way. Thirteen rings of LED light encircle the tower, illustrating the sequence of the Kelvin scale, which expresses the color temperature of light: red at the bottom, moving through orange, yellow, warm white, then cool white and, finally, blue at the top.

The rings are actually iLight Plexineon fixtures, and they are integral to making a potential eyesore a dynamic visual landmark — especially after dusk when the fixtures are programmed to create a sense of electricity moving up the pole.

“From the quality of the product to how you’re able to control it so much, Plexineon was absolutely the best choice.”
 - Ellen Sollod
  Owner, Sollod Studio

The Design Challenge

The Seattle area has a strong history of public art — so much that when Puget Sound Energy wanted to build a new electrical substation in Redmond, integration of art was a must in order to secure a development permit.

As a result, the utility commissioned artist Ellen Sollod to bring an artful solution to this infrastructure project. She recommended transforming the 70-foot galvanized steel transmission pole into an expression of the substation’s mission to deliver electricity reliably and elegantly.

Sollod conceived the design, including the lighting scheme, that ultimately won city approval. Innovation was key — appropriately so in Redmond, which is home to Microsoft Corp.

“We drew from the industrial elements of the site and the electrical system for inspiration,” says Sollod, whose design called for painting the pole deep blue, then installing 13 stainless steel bands up to one inch off the pole, spacing them incrementally wider from each other as the pole rises. The Plexineon fixtures are installed atop the bands, creating rings of light.

During the day, the bands reinforce the site’s industrial character, conveying a high-tech sense. At night, the “neon” look of Plexineon celebrates the power of electricity. Sollod selected Plexineon for the application because she wanted lines of light that would be more clear than diffuse. Also, she knew Plexineon would hold up in an outdoor application, addressing concerns about heat, expansion and durability. Finally, Plexineon’s programmability won her over, enabling her to create a sense of movement.

Working collaboratively with DMX programmer Karl Treibs, she developed a variable, 20-minute program that also uses dimming. With 13 power supplies and wiring running into the pole and down to a utility cabinet 20 feet away, Sollod says the set up was “pretty complex” but worth the effort.

“From the quality of the product to how you’re able to control it so much, Plexineon was absolutely the best choice,” she says.

The Plexineon Advantage

It was Sollod’s first time using Plexineon and she’s pleased.

“I’m really happy with it because it does successfully walk that line,” she says. “It functions as an identifier — conveying, without text, that it’s a substation.”

An added surprise is that the blue pole seems to disappear in the night sky, leaving the effect that the Plexineon-rimmed rings are pulsing along the horizon.

“Passersby are likely to see it appear differently whenever they encounter it,” she says.

Project: Puget Sound Energy Art
Site: Richmond, Wash.
Location: Exterior Application
Product Use: Direct View
Commissioned Artist: Ellen Sollod, Sollod Studio | www.sollodstudio.com
Fabricator: Fabrication Specialties
Programmer: Karl Treibs, PNTA | www.pnta.com
Electrical Engineer: Skyline Electric Co. | www.skyline-electric.com
Product: Plexineon Red, Orange, Amber, White 3500K, White 4500K, W650K, Blu
Length: 168 LF (51m)

iLight LED products can add distinction to your next interior or exterior project. Learn more at our web site: www.ilight.tech.com.

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