Outdoor Lighting: Dover installs LEDs, others question technology costs

The city of Dover, Delaware is installing 118 LED street lights, while Foley, Alabama considers a SSL project and the citizens of Rochester, Minnesota question the economics of a pilot project.

Dover, Delaware hopes to save more than $350,000 over 20 years in energy costs by installing LED street lights. The city of Foley, Alabama along with Riviera Utilities are studying the viability of a conversion to solid-state-lighting (SSL) on its streets, and a pilot program in Rochester, Minnesota has drawn criticism from citizens that question the cost of LEDs relative to the benefits.

According to the Dover Post, the city will install 118 LED street lights at a cost of $3000 per fixture. The city will use a portion of a $180,400 grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to fund the project.

The city expects that the LED lights will use one third of the energy used by the current lights. Moreover the city expects superior performance from the LEDs in terms of nighttime visibility. The city judged the benefits to be sufficiently significant to justify using the city’s general fund to cover costs that exceed the grant money.

Citizens question LED costs

The citizens of Rochester, Minnesota, meanwhile, aren’t so sure that LED street lights are a wise investment. The local Post Bulletin newspaper published an editorial entitled LED streetlights are solid long-term investment last week applauding a pilot project undertaken by the Rochester Public Utilities. Subsequently, the paper published largely-negative comments made in response to the article by local citizens.

The Rochester pilot was funded by a federal block grant. But the editorial noted that the LED lights cost $833 each compared to $346 for a traditional street light. The article projected a payback period of 12-15 years.

The bulk of the comments lamented the use of taxpayer money on what was perceived as an unnecessary expense. One person did have positive things to say about their experience with LED lighting in the home, and suggested that the city would actually realize a shorter payback period based on lower maintenance costs.

Foley studies LEDs

According to an article in the Mobile Press-Register, the city of Foley, Alabama has embarked on a study to determine whether a transition to LED street lights is economically viable. The article projected energy savings of 30% attributable to SSL, although many outdoor lighting installations have bested that projection.

Foley is working with the Riviera Utilities power company to complete the study. The city’s economic development director expects that LEDs will be broadly adopted in street lights at some point but questions whether now is the time to make such a move.

The director likens today’s LED technology to computers of the late 1980s or early 1990s. That characterization may be a bit unfair from a pure technology perspective as LEDs for general lighting are vastly improved. But there is no question that prices will drop significantly with more advanced manufacturing lines and specifically larger semiconductor wafers that yield more LED chips.

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