Cheaper, smarter LED streetlight replacements now underway

New lights will increase visibility, reduce carbon footprint

December 15, 2015 - by Amy Cloud, Communications and Outreach

As of Dec. 7, aging streetlights owned by the City of Bellingham are being replaced with new Light-Emitting Diode (LED) fixtures. This project, approved by the Bellingham City Council in April 2015, will provide brighter, less expensive, more environmentally friendly lighting.

The LED lighting switch, done in partnership with energy services company McKinstry, will save approximately $240,000 dollars annually and reduce the city’s carbon footprint significantly by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  It should take approximately six weeks to complete the transition.

These new LED fixtures will offer a number of benefits to the City, including:

Lower energy bills

Powering the City’s current high pressure sodium streetlights costs more than $600,000 each year. LED technology, on the other hand, can deliver better lighting with 50-60% less energy. Although LED technology has been available for decades, it has only recently become cost-competitive for roadway use.

The energy savings from the new LED streetlights will pay for the cost of the $4 million dollar 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

Better light quality and illumination can make Bellingham safer, as the new streetlights will improve visibility for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, and keep streets lit for those walking at night.

The white light emitted by LEDs shows colors as they really are, and provides better visibility. The new LED lights will utilize a special lens to direct the light, to reduce light pollution and improve efficiency.

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.

Longer-lasting fixtures

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

The old fixtures, which fail every few years, contain mercury and lead. LED fixtures are often 100% recyclable and don’t use any toxic substances.

Specialized controls increase efficiency

Each streetlight will be equipped with a node that alerts the central network when it fails or no longer works as expected. Currently, the only way to find out if a light has failed is by observation. The new system will allow the City to immediately pinpoint every outage – and respond.

These nodes, provided by Echelon, can relay exactly how much energy each streetlight is using and issue problem alerts. The controls can also dim lights on command during low occupancy times to save additional energy.

For more details, please click here or check the City’s web page, at

Please contact Clark Williams, Superintendent of Traffic at 778-7810 or with any questions.


Media Contact

​Clark Williams, Superintendent of Traffic
Public Works Department
City of Bellingham
(360) 778-7810

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