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Light Emitting Diodes (LED) are a technology that has been used in solid state lighting for decades. In the last decade, LED technology has advanced to streetlight applications. LED streetlights are extremely energy efficient, have long life spans, and produce a better color and quality of light than typical High Pressure Sodium (HPS) streetlights.
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The majority of streetlights currently used in Westbrook are High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lights mounted on wooden utility poles owned by Eversource or Frontier. The remaining fixtures have bulbs mounted in lantern style fixtures on metal poles in newer subdivisions or metal halide fixtures like those on Flat Rock Place leading to the Westbrook Outlets. While HPS has been one of the most common streetlight technologies across the country for decades, it has several drawbacks. HPS streetlights are not energy efficient, cast an orange light under which it is difficult to see color accurately and tend to produce light that is not of optimal quality. The other decorative type lights also lack energy efficiency.
Compared to the more orange light (2200-Kelvin on a color scale) that High Pressure Sodium (HPS) fixtures produce, LED streetlight fixtures are a cooler, white light under which it is easier to see true colors. Westbrook’s Energy Committee plans to use whiter 3000-Kelvin LEDs, similar to those in Old Saybrook and Madison, not the 4000-Kelvin LEDs in Clinton, which are more blue-white. The American Medical Association has recommended 3000-Kelvin for streetlight LEDs and Eversource also plans to install 3000-Kelvin fixtures in communities not installing their own LED fixtures.
Although the new LED fixtures produce a different looking light than the HPS fixtures they replaced, they are not actually dimmer. HPS fixtures tend to produce a bright spot directly underneath the fixture that also spills onto adjacent properties, whereas LEDs create a more even pool of light across the ground or roadway. HPS fixtures also let light escape upwards, which impacts the night sky, and the LED light distribution avoids uplighting entirely.
Wireless controls cost up to 40% more, extending the expected payback period, and are not yet eligible for a rebate from the State’s Energy Efficiency Fund. The Town expects to receive an approximate $50,000 rebate for the LEDs from this Fund, which receives revenues from the “Combined Public Benefit Charge” that every resident and business pays on their monthly electric and/or natural gas bills. The Town is purchasing cobra-head fixtures that will be control-ready so we can take advantage of the technology when the cost comes down to add wireless controls or other options. Most LED fixtures the Town is purchasing will have a manual dimming control installed, which will allow raising the lumen output over time to offset natural declines in output as dirt accumulates and the fixtures age. Solar-powered LED streetlights cost three to four times more than standard LED fixtures, which would not be economical, extending the payback period well into the expected 25-year life of the LED fixtures. Existing solar-powered fixtures also produce less available light than the Town plans for fixtures on its State routes and at intersections.
Westbrook is interested in reducing its energy consumption and maintenance costs associated with street lighting. Installing LED streetlight fixtures will save energy, require less maintenance, and will provide residents with better light quality on streets and roadways. The estimated savings after the payback period amounts to over $1 million over the life of the LED fixtures, primarily due to lower maintenance/delivery charges. Dozens of other communities in Connecticut and more in other states have assumed maintenance responsibilities and installed LED streetlight fixtures.
Replacing HPS fixtures with LEDs would reduce energy consumption (supply charges) but maintenance (delivery) charges would increase, offsetting the savings and keeping bills comparable to current ones. In addition, the cost to purchase the fixtures from Eversource increases each time another community purchases theirs, since Eversource’s street lighting costs are spread over the remainder.
This project will involve 625 streetlights throughout Westbrook, 523 of which are standard HPS streetlights (called “cobra heads.”) as well as 102 decorative style fixtures in newer subdivisions and on Flat Rock Place. Those privately maintained, which are described in the article in the summer issue of Westbrook Events, are the responsibility of others.
The project is expected to save Westbrook approximately $70,000 in the first twelve months after all the LEDs are installed and likely more over time as Eversource’s rates rise. The Town’s street lighting bills increased by 43% between Fiscal Years 2013 and 2016 and totaled nearly $89,000 in FY 2017.
The project began in April 2017, with the Town’s Energy Committee evaluating the benefits of installing LEDs. An audit of the fixtures the Town is purchasing was performed in April 2018 and locations were plotted for transfer to the Town’s Geographic Information System (GIS). Pilot fixtures for resident feedback are scheduled to be installed the first week of July 2018 and the final LED streetlight installations should occur by September.
The Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen approved the project’s expenditure and the contractor selected at their meetings last November and the vote to approve the project was unanimously approved by town residents at a Town Meeting last December. The Town purchased the existing high-pressure cobra head fixtures on utility poles and decorative streetlights from Eversource in mid-April, 2018 and will pay Siemens for the LED installations once they are complete. The total cost before the expected rebate of some $50,000 was approved at $387,000 and a $5,000 grant that the Energy Committee earned will be used to purchase spare fixtures.
Three cobra head fixtures are being installed near the Town Beach. One 4000-Kelvin fixture is at the entrance to the parking lot, a 3000 Kelvin residential street fixture is on Seaside Avenue near the basketball backstops in the parking lot, and a brighter 3000-Kelvin fixture (for main roads) at the corner of Seaside Avenue and Tarpon Avenue. Residential intersections will have fixtures with an illumination level in between these two demo LEDs. Retrofits for the lantern-style decorative fixtures will be installed at the intersection of Fairview and Halls Roads and at the end of Halls Road. One fixture on Flat Rock Place will also have its metal halide fixture retrofitted with an LED. Poles on Seaview Avenue with LEDs have yellow tape around them for easy identification. Residents may provide feedback on color and light distribution during July via a survey to be posted on the Energy Committee’s web site.
The existing High Pressure Sodium (HPS) streetlights with aluminum bodies will be recycled in accordance with all federal and state environmental guidelines.
The Energy Committee held an informational workshop last November and provided a slide presentation at the Town Meeting approving the project last December 11th. Articles in Westbrook Events and the Harbor News have kept readers abreast of developments with the project. An additional informational workshop is planned for July.
As detailed in the summer issue of Westbrook Events (green bordered cover), the Town’s Department of Public Works (DPW) will relay residents’ reports to Siemens for attention. Outages in HPS cobra head fixtures in the early months of Town ownership will be addressed as appropriate but not those that fail in the late summer leading up to full LED replacements/retrofits.