Streetlights to get brighter, cheaper with LEDs

Renton’s future is looking a little bit brighter. And cheaper.

Beginning Monday, the City of Renton will begin replacing its 3,685 street lights with Light Emitting Diode lights that should be brighter, cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

Public Works director Gregg Zimmerman said the new lights will save the city about $271,000 per year in energy costs, before debt service is factored in.

“You can see this is a really good investment in terms of saving money,” he said.

Zimmerman said the city presently spends more than $1 million per year on power costs for the city’s street lights, including traffic signals. Over the next four months, the city will replace the old style high pressure sodium lights with LEDs.

According to Zimmerman, along with “significantly less” energy costs, the new lights will also produce a purer, cleaner light. Whereas the high pressure sodium lights create a yellow/orange glow, the new lights are almost pure white.

“It actually provides more true color distinction,” he said.

The $4.3 million project is funded in part by two grants. The city received a $589,000 Utility Incentive Grant from Puget Sound Energy and a $500,000 grant from the Department of Commerce.

The remaining $3.2 million will be financed through a 15-year low-interest Qualified Energy Conservation Bond.

Zimmerman said the debt service on the bonds will be about $216,000 per year, making the net savings to the city an estimated $55,000 per year for the first 15 years with the savings jumping to the full amount after the bonds are paid.

“The LED light upgrades will result in significant energy and cost savings for the city while providing better lighting,” Mayor Denis Law said in a press release.

On top of that, city spokesperson Preeti Shridhar said there would be a savings in maintenance costs as well because the bulbs last longer, saving manpower as well as bulb costs.

“It’s not just the cost of the bulb when you’re talking replacement,” she said.

Though all of the city-owned lights will be replaced, not all of lights in the city will be changed to LEDs.

Zimmerman said about 2,000 lights are owned by PSE and several homeowners associations own ornamental street lights. Those will not be replaced through this grant, though Shirdhar said the hope is that those too will be replaced soon.

The replacement project is scheduled to begin Monday and last about four months. Zimmerman said the contractor will use the Rolling Hills Reservoir as a staging area.

The plan is for lights located in neighborhoods to be replaced during the day, but lights in commercial areas will be replaced at night.

“I think it’s a real good program,” Zimmerman said.

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