Replacing earlier fixtures could cost $23.7 million 

Some 37,500 of Calgary’s streetlights were changed to lower-wattage EnviroSmart fixtures eight years ago.

Now, new technology means that the City may soon be changing streetlights again. This time LEDs will be added- a move that could mean a large expenditure for taxpayers.

Currently the City is looking at a phased approach, installing the LED streetlights using existing budgeted funds. But City Council has also requested a comprehensive implementation plan for 2015 to 2017.

LED streetlights may slowly be appearing throughout the city, but this environmentally friendly change comes at a cost.

Photo by Rachel Kane

Benefits of LED streetlights

 The switch is taking place against the backdrop of a recent Calgary Transportation Report that concluded “replacement of standard high pressure sodium streetlights with LED streetlights where feasible can provide an overall economic and environmental benefit to The City of Calgary.”

This is because LEDs, which stands for Light-Emitting Diode, use less energy over a longer life span than traditional lighting sources.

Each LED lamp contains more than 80 tiny bulbs, which have a life span of 60,000 hours or around 16 years when lit for 10 hours each day.

That’s five times the durability than that of a traditional street lamp.

Brentwood pilot program

So far, the appearance of LED lights on Calgary’s streets has been limited to a one-year pilot test program in the community of Brentwood.

City spokesperson Kelly Dyer said citizen feedback on the project was generally neutral, although there were some complaints about the quality of the light.

LEDs are known to shine with a whiter light than the blue light of the earlier streetlights and individuals may prefer one tone to the other.

These conclusions aren’t new.

Communities such as Edmonton, Hamilton, and Halifax –as well as cities in the United States and abroad –had already conducted investigations that reached similar conclusions.

Dyer said a pilot project was necessary despite the earlier studies since each city has its “own unique infrastructure” and “spacing of lights.” She also noted that the City doesn’t want to assume that what works in one city will work in Calgary.

The estimated average annual operating costs savings would be $65 per fixture.

Switching to the current EnviroSmart fixtures was to reduce energy consumption.

As a result, it was estimated that the City would regain the cost of installing the new fixtures from energy savings by 2011 or 2012.

Costs

Dyer said the estimated cost to replace just 19,500 of the 90,000 streetlights in the city with LED lights is around $23.7 million.

A 10-year implementation plan is likely to be undertaken if the city decides to go ahead with the streetlight replacements.

Leotek, an American company specializing in LED lighting, has stated the main downside to conversion is the significant difference in cost because LED lights are two to four times more expensive than traditional lights.

Leotek notes that programs where paybacks exceed 10 years should normally be deferred for economic reasons. However, many municipalities proceed despite very long financial payback periods in order to address climate change.

The Calgary report estimates the costs of installing LEDs will be recouped after 15 years.

kcamarta@cjournal.ca