GE acquires LED startup Albeo

If you haven’t been following the growing buzz around LEDs — energy efficient and long-lasting lighting technology — then this bit of news will no doubt make you take notice: on Monday GE’s lighting division announced that it’s acquiring LED startup Albeo Technologies. The companies didn’t release terms of the deal.

Albeo is a venture-backed startup, based in Boulder, Colorado, that once described itself to us as the Dell of LEDs. The company makes LED fixtures and control systems, and buys the light emitting diodes themselves from big LED manufacturers. In 2007, Albeo switched its focus from the residential market to selling LED systems to industrial and commercial customers.

Good move. According to GigaOM Pro and Pike Research, by 2020 LEDs will make up nearly half (46 percent) of the $4.4 billion U.S. commercial lamp market. According to The Denver Business Journal, Albeo’s revenue have blossomed 430 percent over three years, from $2 million in 2009 to $10.6 million in 2011.

Albeo has found a growing amount of customers with industry like commercial-scale refrigeration, data centers, parking garages, and warehouses — anyplace where companies want to extend the life of the lights as long as possible, and also are large enough to benefit from the energy savings of the more efficient LEDs. LEDs are significantly more efficient than both incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs.

For industry and commercial companies LEDs are starting to be a clear winner. For the residential market — not so much. Most residential LED bulbs are expensive enough that home owners don’t yet see the benefits of the long term energy savings.

Albeo was backed by Denver-based Green Spark Ventures. Update: Braemer Energy Ventures invested in Albeo, too. Exits in the cleantech world have been few and far between.