An average American town’s biggest expense, when excluded payrolls, typically lands on its reoccurring street lighting bill. LED, a prevalent technology now implemented as backlight for many electronic devices, such as Tablet PCs, Smartphones, TVs, and more, looks promising to cut expense by reducing electricity consumption up to 50% and maintenance required in streetlights.
Culpeper, Virginia, a town of approximately 16,000 people recently erected two LED streetlights, with one on North Main Street and the other on Piedmont Street. A third LED streetlight is said to be installed in South Main and Elm streets. According the town’s press release that the town is not rushing into LED streetlights, officials hope through installing and experimenting different LED streetlights, its residents will decide on what style and foot print of the lights they would like to have installed. Officials say they will seek residents’ opinion and review on the different streetlights in regard to their light efficiency, light color and style.
The town representative also says they are looking for streetlights that would blend-in with the local atmosphere. There are a lot of localities and utilities that can be expected to implement LEDs, said Culpeper town light and power director, Mike Stover. LED consumes 50 percent less in power usage. Despite that a LED streetlight typically cost twice more than the price of incandescent bulb. LED streetlights will pay-off in the long-run. The town has recently converted all its traffic lights into the LED variety. He also added that traffic lights using LEDs are already able to save more by using less expensive battery backup in case of power outage. LEDs are more expensive than traditional incandescent lights, but this difference will be compensated over time. According to LEDinside, LED lights last longer and up to a standard of 100,000 hours, approximately 4 times longer than the 24,000 hours of a regular bulb.
According to the town official, a LED streetlight cost about $400 to $600, while the traditional high pressure sodium streetlight cost about $250. Stover added it does not hurt to look into new options to illuminate our town. After becoming the very first community to convert all of its traffic lights into LED lights, now we (Culpeper, Virginia) are looking into streetlights. LED technology is improving with surging interests while its price drops quickly. LED streetlight accounted for only 1 percent of all streetlights 5 years ago and now the number has grown to 10 percent. LED lights are directional; they emit light in direction specified while incandescent lights emit lighting in all direction. LEDs streetlight produces cooler white light, without the yellowish tint of traditional streetlight.
In Texas, Arlington, official has started converting their high-pressure sodium streetlights into LED streetlights. About one third of the streetlights will be converted starting from the east side of Arlington and progressing west. Official says there will be no detour and traffic delay due to construction. The new streetlight will be white and cooler when compare to the yellow-toned high-pressure sodium lights.
Part of the decision on converting streetlights was a result of a town survey conducted. The survey asked Arlington residents to comment on the kind of streetlight they would like to have installed. Officials placed two different of lights in four different residential areas and town hall. The main differences between these two lights are aesthetic and light temperature. With town in the country trying to reduce cost without cutting jobs, the only way is to decrease long-term energy consumption.
On the other hand, in towns like Centennial, Colorado is having difficulty convincing their utility to participate in adapting LED lights. This city of 100,000 people has battled with their utility to set rates that will be best in adapting LED streetlight. The city wants to adapt LED streetlight because its energy efficiency and low maintenance.
Also in Baltimore, Maryland, towns are discovering bringing in new LED technology is not as easy as they thought. They wrangled with their utility for two years until finally establishing a decision on LED rate structure. Jackson, New Jersey, risked their federal grants as their negotiation with their utility dragged for more than a year.
In Montana, Northwestern Energy lobbied against the state wide adaption of LEDs, saying that the LED lights are not cost effective when served as streetlights. Even in city known for their adventurous approach toward adoption of new technology like Raleigh, North Carolina, has difficulty convincing their utility. Despite LEDs’ price have decreased by half over the past three years, LED is a semiconductor chip that emits light. Still LEDs are twice more expensive than the general high-pressure sodium light commonly used in streetlights. Cities are willing to trade in especially for the long life of LED lights. As typical LED light bulb lasts up to 15 year when compare to a regular bulb that only lasts 3 to a maximum of 4 year.
Some cities own and maintain the streetlight they use, but usually utilities install streetlights in cities and towns, maintain them and charge for the fixture, maintenance and energy cost of the streetlight on a monthly basis.
In Florida, the rates on adopting LED streetlight are twice more expensive than regular high-pressure sodium streetlight. The utility says it is because the replacement costs are very high, due to the fact the state if prone to hurricane and lightening.
Cities that have own their own streetlights make this adoption more quickly, according to the vice president of government relation, Greg Merritt, at Cree. Both Los Angeles and Seattle have municipal-own streetlights, and are undertaking enormous replacement of old high-pressure streetlights with LED units. For Seattle, its program to retrofit a total of its all 84,000 streetlights is aim to save $350,000 of its electricity bill in the first year and the number is expect to triple in the following three years with the installation of its 12,000 LED streetlights. The project manager of Seattle streetlight program, Ed Smalley said, “That is money in the bank”.
According to a report from the department of energy, there are in total of 58 million streetlights in the U.S. and account for approximately 1 percent of end use of electricity. LED streetlights are being adopted across the country to draw less power and reduce electricity bill and maintenance cost, says LEDinside.