Austin turns to LEDs, joins LED City program

Austin, Texas is latest to join joins growing network of LED Cities to promote and deploy energy-efficient lighting technology.

Austin, Texas has become the latest city in North America to join the LED City™ program, which has been developed by LED maker Cree. Austin joins Toronto, Canada, as well as Raleigh, North Carolina and Ann Arbor, Michigan in the program, in which municipalities evaluate and deploy state-of-the-art LED lighting technology.

In December 2007, the City of Austin and Austin Energy retrofitted a floor of the One Texas Center Parking Garage with 47-watt LED fixtures from Beta LED™. LED fixtures have also been installed in a hallway at Austin Energy headquarters, in streetlights on Barton Springs, in the Palmer Events Center marquee sign and in the water fountain at the new Palmer Events Center Park.

Additional test installations are planned throughout the City, including a portion of the lights surrounding the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail. These installations demonstrate Austin Energy’s significant commitment to installing high-quality, energy-efficient LED lighting throughout the City.

"One of the workhorses in the City’s lighting inventory is the 250-watt High Pressure Sodium [HPS] cobra-head roadway fixture," notes Austin Mayor Will Wynn. "We plan to evaluate LED solutions that have the potential to reduce energy consumption by 47 to 90 percent over traditional lighting solutions."

Wynn said that just by retrofitting 5,000 streetlights – a mere portion of all of the streetlights within the city – Austin could realize savings of up to $500,000 a year. "And that doesn’t include additional maintenance and labor cost savings if we won’t be sending out a worker in a boom truck an additional 6-7 times just to change a light bulb," he said.

The total wattage of the LED garage light installation is about 30 percent below the allowable wattage as required by the Energy Code Allowance, said Wynn. This represents a saving of $6,795 a year in utility costs compared to the Code Allowance. Because LEDs typically last 5-7 times longer than the prior fixture bulbs, the City anticipates it could achieve an additional savings of $27,000 in replacement lamp costs over the life of the LEDs.

"The combined annualized savings to the City could be $10,178 per year with a simple payback of 6.5 years," claims Wynn. "This lighting strategy is part of our efforts to achieve Energy Star and LEED Accreditation for City of Austin buildings. LEDs represent a new, exciting technology that can help us achieve the ambitious goals we have established through our Climate Protection Plan.”

Roger Duncan, Austin Energy’s interim general manager, said "Austin Energy has a $17-million-per-year rebate program that encourages commercial and home energy customers to purchase and use products that provide significant energy savings. Our LED lighting rebate of $300 per-kilowatt-of-capacity-reduced aims to cover about 30 percent of the upfront cost of LEDs to help businesses explore the benefits of this new technology."

In 2003, the City of Austin retrofitted over 5,200 traffic signals and 3700 pedestrian signals with LEDs. The wattage of the traffic signals was reduced from 135 watts to 11-15 watts each – a 90-percent reduction. The award-winning retrofit has realized a savings of 7.25 million kilowatt-hours per year, removed 830 kilowatts of demand load from the City grid, and the City estimates it has saved taxpayers $1.4 million per year plus additional maintenance and labor savings.

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