Pilot Project Installs LED Street Lights Across Long Beach

Mayor Bob Foster climbs in a cherry picker to christen pilot LED street lights in a Westside neighborhood.

Long Beach, California - Lined with quaint single-family homes and manicured lawns, the 3000 block of Baltic Ave. looks like many others in Long Beach's residential Westside. Even the neighborhood's street lights look typical: pillars of speckled stone standing every 40 feet atop which is perched a light that hangs over the curb into the street. But since last month, these street lights have been the focus of a pilot project in which the typical high-pressure sodium light bulbs are replaced with LED ones.

The project is an opportunity to not only determine the cost and energy savings of using LED street lights in Long Beach, but also to gauge resident opinions of the new light sources, which emit a bright, white glow.

"Some people might not like the LED lights, but it's a small percentage usually," said Brad Weber of City Light & Power, the company that operates and maintains the street lighting system in Long Beach. "Overall, LEDs are more energy efficient and require less maintenance."

Southern California Edison spearheaded and paid for the installation of LED lights in four pilot neighborhoods across the city including Alamitos Beach (near Florida and Walnut), Park Estates (west of Cal State Campus), Stratford Square (near Clark Ave. and Willow St.) and West Long Beach near Silverado Park where Mayor Bob Foster on Thursday climbed a cherry picker for a press event to christen the lights. All of the chosen neighborhoods are on metered circuits (as opposed to a flat rate circuit) so that the actual cost and energy savings can be compared to last year's numbers.

Surveys have also been given to every affected homeowner asking for feedback on the new LEDs.

Long Beach is the largest city served by the utility company and officials say that the lights placed in Long Beach have already undergone evaluation for energy savings potential as well as overall performance.

"LED has always been more energy efficient, but the fixtures used to be too expensive," said Ben Harvey, Region Manager for Southern California Edison. "Now, they are getting cheaper and so it makes sense to test them out."

In addition to the energy savings--LED lights use 50% to 60% less power than high-sodium bulbs--the LED lights only need to be changed out every 20 years (instead of the current five), which also significantly cuts maintenance costs. Cities across the country--from Gillette, Wyoming to North Greenbush, New York--have switched to LED lighting and have cited significant savings over the full life cycle as a result.

The City of Long Beach plans to use the residential feedback and use/cost statistics gleaned over the next month to help them in their decision making regarding whether to install them throughout larger areas.

"More lights means better public safety," said 7th District Councilmember James Johnson whose district includes one of the pilot neighborhoods. "But instead of City Hall dictating what is best for the community, this is about asking the neighborhood to tell us what they think."
 

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