Outdoor Lighting: Niagara Falls plans to test LED street light energy use

Niagara Falls plans to begin an LED evaluation project in early 2011 while SSL projects in Palo Alto and Cleveland face roadblocks.

Dec 8th, 2010

Niagara Falls in Canada is a top North American tourist destination and now the city hopes to make news with a transition to energy-efficient LED-based street lighting. The project is emphasizing the energy savings and perhaps even more so the resulting reduction in carbon emissions. Meanwhile Palo Alto, California and Cleveland, Ohio are seeing different types of roadblocks to solid-state-lighting (SSL) street-light retrofit projects.

Niagara Falls has launched a program called Niagara Luminaire that is shepherding the SSL evaluation. A joint initiative between the region’s municipal Ground Arial Maintenance Services (GAMS) and PR firm the Devon Group, Niagara Luminaire is planning to test LED and induction lighting at 21 sites around Niagara Falls. Niagara Peninsula Energy is also a partner in the project along with some major SSL players.

An article in the Niagara Falls Review described GAMS’ plan to first spend a month measuring the energy use of the high-pressure-sodium (HPS) lights that the agency installed in the 1980s. Then GAMS will convert the test sites and repeat a month of power measurements on LED and induction lights.

The Niagara Luminaire website includes a page that details the pilot project. The criterion on site selections includes the requirement that the street lights chosen for the test can be electrically isolated so that revenue-class meters can be installed. Moreover, the tests will focus on sites where only the lights being retrofitted can be easily seen – completely segregating the lights from other sources for light measurements. The web site lists the 21 sites planned for tests.

Niagara Falls hopes to save around 50% in energy costs. A consultant has estimated that the city’s street lights currently generate 1273 metric tonnes of carbon emissions per year equating to a $7 million impact on health issues such as asthma and heart conditions. Niagara Luminaire hopes to greatly reduce those emissions. And the project hopes to incubate a green manufacturing base in the area.

Tying SSL street lights to Cleveland jobs

While the Niagara Luminaire project mentions the possibility of creating local jobs, it doesn’t explicitly tie jobs to street-light retrofits. Cleveland is taking that next step according to an article on the Cleveland.com website. An article on the site reports that to win the contract to supply LED street lights, a company would have to build a local manufacturing and research facility and hire 350 employees.

Bids were due on the first of December and a Chinese firm called Sunpu-Opto Semiconductor that was presumably the front runner for the contract did not submit a bid. A subsequent article reports that GE Lighting and ATC Lighting did bid.

The Cleveland mayor had actually hoped to land a partner that would produce a broad range of LED lighting locally. The winning bidder would build LED street lights, retrofit LED lights to replace linear fluorescents, LED traffic signal lights and retrofit LED light bulbs with the provision that the city would exclusively buy the products from that vendor for a ten year period. According to the latest article, neither of the two actual bidders met the specified requirements. Stay tuned for more from Cleveland.

Palo Alto raises citizen safety issues

In Palo Alto, the objection to an LED retrofit project has come in the form of concerns over recent robberies and attempted robberies. According to the Palo Alto Patch website, a city council member is worried that the LED retrofit will leave dark spots between poles. Apparently there have been six recent armed robberies and two other attempts.

The city is planning to replace 600 250W HPS fixtures with 250W cobrahead LED luminaires at a cost of $355,281. One council member has suggested that the city should use the money to install more street-light poles rather than retrofitting the HPS lights with LEDs. Another council member has countered with the point that Palo Alto doesn’t have a significant safety issue.

It’s not clear how the Palo Alto situation will progress. But other cities certainly believe LED retrofits yield better and safer lights (see our SALC story.) And replacing 250W HPS lights with 250W LEDs should certainly deliver brighter lighting in Palo Alto.

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