A brighter future: City to install LED streetlights

New lights are safer, more efficient, and reduce City's carbon footprint

October 06, 2015 - by Clark Williams

The City of Bellingham is about to embark on a city-wide upgrade of our aging streetlights into smart LED fixtures. This project, in partnership with energy services company McKinstry, will save the City roughly $200,000 annually and will significantly reduce our carbon footprint by drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Saving money

Powering our current high-pressure sodium streetlights costs in excess of $600,000 per year. LED technology can deliver better lighting with 50-60% less energy than high-pressure sodium technology. Although LED technology has been available for decades, it has only recently become cost competitive with other lighting technologies for roadway use.

The energy savings from the new LED streetlights will pay for the cost of the $4 million project within 12 years. The project is also supported by a $500,000 grant from the Department of Commerce's Energy Efficiency Grants program and will qualify for approximately $400,000 in utility rebates from Puget Sound Energy.

Better light quality

LED streetlights don't just save money – they will also help keep Bellingham's residents safer. With better light quality and better illumination, these new streetlights will provide improved visibility to drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians, and help keep streets lit for everyone who walks alone at night.

LED lights produce better color rendering and uniform illumination patterns as compared to high pressure sodium fixtures. The white light emitted by LEDs shows colors as they really are and provide better visibility for drivers and pedestrians. The new LED lights will also utilize a special lens to direct the light, which reduces light pollution and improves the efficiency of the fixture.

These new lights will make our streets look a little different at night. The current high pressure sodium lamps produce a yellowish-colored light, whereas the new LEDs will produce a cool white light that's similar to moonlight. Although it may seem unfamiliar at first, the white light actually allows colors to appear more natural at night and will highlight Bellingham's historic beauty.

Longer-lasting fixtures save money

Most high-pressure sodium streetlights, which rely on chemicals and wires that degrade over time, need to be replaced every 3-5 years. LED lights, which instead rely on computer chips and electronic parts, last four to six times longer and are less likely to unexpectedly fail. The LED fixtures the City is installing are guaranteed to last for 10 years by the manufacturer, but are expected to last for at least 20 years.

Additionally, since the old fixtures fail every few years, we have to get rid of hundreds of lamps and ballasts that contain mercury and lead every year. LED fixtures are 100% recyclable and don't use any toxic substances.

City of the future

The new streetlights will serve as a backbone for a networked city of the future.

Each streetlight will be equipped with a node that alerts the central network when it fails or no longer works as expected. Currently, the City has no way to find out if a light has failed other than by visual identification by staff or by a resident report. The new system will allow the City to immediately pinpoint every single outage and dispatch a maintenance team to get it up and running.

These streetlights can relay back to City staff exactly how much energy each is consuming and alert us to any problems.

What should you expect?

Beginning in October, the City and McKinstry will be replacing all City-owned streetlights with LED fixtures. The conversion should be complete by the end of the year. For more information, please visit the City webpage or contact Clark Williams, Superintendent of Traffic, at (360) 778-7810 or cwilliams@cob.org with any questions or to report any concerns.

Media Contact

​Clark Williams
Superintendent of Traffic/Communications/Fleet and Facilities
Public Works Department
(360) 778-7810

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