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January 31, 2018

Portland to save $1M annually by switching to LED streetlights

Photo / James McCarthy Portland began replacing all of its street lights this week with new, energy-efficient LED light fixtures, a project expected to save taxpayers $1 million annually.

Portland began replacing all of its street lights this week with new, energy-efficient LED light fixtures, a project expected to save taxpayers $1 million annually that was made possible by the city’s recent acquisition of the streetlights from Central Maine Power Co.

It’s the first city in Maine to do so under the provisions of a state law enacted in 2013 that allows municipalities to purchase utility-owned street lighting equipment in their communities and to replace it with energy efficient LED lighting.

City staff and partners from TEN Connected Solutions and Bernstein Shur worked with CMP on an agreement in conformance with Maine Public Utilities Commission rules to transfer ownership to the city of the lamps, fixtures, and mast arms that attach the lights to the poles.

The $497,000 cost to purchase the street lighting assets from CMP was allocated in the city’s fiscal year 2018 Capital Improvement Plan.

Buying the streetlights and converting them to LED will provide the city with a savings of more than $1 million annually. In the past, Portland paid CMP a monthly fee for the use of each fixture in addition to the cost of electricity. This averaged about $1.2 million annually. Purchasing the lights and switching to energy efficient LEDs will reduce this cost to about $150,000 per year.

Other advantages of the switch

In addition to reducing electricity consumption for street lighting by 75%, the city cited other advantages that LED streetlights offer over older lighting technologies:

  • Better light: LED lighting allows people to see colors more clearly, which makes it easier to recognize people and objects on the streets and sidewalks.
  • Reduced glare: It is easy to aim LEDs to shine light where it should be and to avoid shining it where it is unwanted.
  • Long life: LED lighting has an extremely long life which reduces overall maintenance costs.

The city is specifying lights with a warm color temperature of 3000 Kelvin to avoid the metallic blue light associated with some LEDs. This follows the recommendations of the International Dark Sky Association and the American Medical Association.

Crews will be working their way around the city, installing 250 lights to 350 lights per week with an estimated completion in May.

“Converting the streetlights to LED has been a goal of the city of Portland for many years,” City Manager Jon Jennings said in a news release. “I am pleased the City Council has been so supportive of this initiative that will improve lighting throughout the city, reduce costs, and serve as a platform for innovative technologies that will improve the lives of residents and visitors. I’m especially pleased that such a significant project offers financial savings that we can reinvest to make Portland a leader in smart city applications.”

Sustainability Coordinator Troy Moon added: “Converting our streetlights to LED is an important step that reduces the city’s carbon footprint. The new lights will reduce the city’s electricity consumption by 2.7 million kilowatt hours per year, which is about 8% of its total use. This offsets the burning of more than 4,600 barrels of oil.”

Phase 1 of 'Smart City' streetlight program

Installing the new lights kicks off Phase 1 of the Streetlight Conversion/Smart City program approved by the City Council in October 2017.

This part of the project includes $4 million for the replacement of all overhead street lights that are attached to utility poles throughout the city, and a variety of smart city technologies including public wi-fi locations, exterior lighting at City Hall, intelligent traffic signals at some key intersections, and electric vehicle charging stations.

Phase 2, also $4 million, includes additional upgrades to street lights, controls for all decorative lights, and additional smart city technologies including more public wi-fi locations, additional signal upgrades at key intersections, and environmental sensors.

Portland’s lead partner in this project is TEN Connected Solutions of Pittsburgh, Pa., which was selected from a pool of seven respondents to an RFP issued in October 2016. 

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