LED street lights saving serious cash in Seattle

July 13, 2011
The city of Seattle has installed thousands of LED street lights and is reaping the benefits in terms of hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings.
LED street lights in the city of Seattle, WA, are already saving $300,000 a year, according to city representatives. And the Seattle City Light utility is working to install tens of thousands more, says City Council-member Bruce Harrell and City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco.

Once a total of 41,000 lights are installed, by the end of 2014, they are expected to cut operating costs by $2.4 million a year.

City Light installed 6,000 lights last year between the Ship Canal and North 65th Street. The utility has started work on the second phase of installing LED street lights throughout the residential neighborhoods in its service territory. Contractors will install 12,000 LED street lights this year from North 65th Street to the north end of City Light’s service territory.

“In today’s challenging economy, it’s important that we look for every opportunity to stretch every dollar as far as it can go,” Harrell said. “Our new LED street lights are reducing energy and maintenance costs while providing better, more reliable lighting.”

Carrasco said that the LED street lights installed in 2010 are performing even better than expected. “We anticipated a 40 percent reduction in energy consumption. Their actual electricity use is 48 percent less than the high-pressure sodium lights they replaced,” he explained.

The most obvious aspect of the changeover is the color of the light, which has gone from an amber tint to a whiter light described as being “comparable to moonlight.” Importantly, the whiter light provides truer color representation, more depth of field and greater peripheral vision, which improves safety for drivers, pedestrians.

The city and utility say that the lights are supported by Seattle police, while satisfaction surveys have found that 85 percent of Seattle residents living in participating pilot areas approve of the new lights. City Light has received complaints on only 2 percent of the installations thus far.

Success from the early installations has encouraged City Light to look for additional opportunities to use LED street lights. The utility plans to test the lights on arterial streets this year.

City Light also is investigating technology that would provide remote controls to dim or brighten the lights to meet the needs of changing traffic patterns – more light when drivers need it in heavy traffic, less light when fewer cars are on the road to reduce the impact on residents and increase energy savings.

Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States, and provides “reliable, renewable and environmentally-responsible power” to nearly 1 million Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse-gas-neutral since 2005.