BANGOR, Maine — The city soon will begin replacing more than 300 streetlights in the downtown area with LED — light-emitting diode — lights, a switch that will cost $523,000 upfront but will save $34,000 a year in electricity.
City councilors approved the staff recommendation at a meeting earlier this week.
“It’s a good time to do it. Any chance to save money on our electrical bills is one we’ll take,” City Council Chairman Gerry Palmer said. “It’s really an extension of other energy efficiency measures we’ve taken within the last couple years.”
Even more attractive is the funding source. The new lights will be paid for with a combination of federal stimulus funding and downtown tax increment financing dollars.
Broken down per light, it will cost the city an average of about $1,600 for each LED conversion, although City Manager Edward Barrett said the actual cost would vary depending on the streetlight.
“Some will require retrofitting kits, some will need a whole new head,” he said. “Right now, we have six different types of fixtures, so we’ll be doing some tests to see which work best.”
Within the past two years, the city has been implementing a series of energy efficiency improvements that were outlined in an energy audit conducted by Honeywell Building Solutions. Already, the city has switched a number of municipal buildings to natural gas instead of traditional heating oil and has improved insulation at several other city buildings.
LED lights provide better illumination while using less electricity than traditional sodium vapor streetlights, which emit a softer, orange or yellow glow. In addition, LEDs last much longer than other lights and would not need to be replaced as frequently.
Not all city streetlights will benefit from the LED switch, though. Some streetlights are wired to electric meters that track the power that is being used. The others are not on meters and the city is charged a flat fee for those.
By switching the 319 lights that are on meters — most of which are in the downtown area and on the waterfront — the city can save roughly 60 percent on its annual electricity bill for streetlights.
Palmer said aside from the savings, the new brighter lights have other benefits.
“If there is more illumination downtown, it will certainly make the city a little safer at night,” he said.