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Examiner
  • Independence prepares to switch to LED streetlights

  • After studying the concept for years, Independence is ready to embrace one green technology that will likely make it a leader throughout the Midwest.

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  • After studying the concept for years, Independence is ready to embrace one green technology that will likely make it a leader throughout the Midwest.
    The City Council heard a presentation Monday about the upcoming transition to LED streetlights, a topic under consideration for at least five years.
    But the time is right for the conversion, Independence Power & Light Department Director Leon Daggett said.
    Daggett said the cost of LED lights has gone down significantly in just the several years since IPL had its LED pilot program. In 2010, the utility used federal grant dollars to install LEDs in the Stone Canyon neighborhood, in a parking lot near City Hall and along Little Blue Parkway.
    “The results have been very good,” Daggett said. “We believe now is the time to make the conversion. It’s gotten to the point where we’re seeing better than a 60 percent savings in energy – that’s significant.”
    At future meetings, the City Council will vote on two contracts involving the transition – one for purchasing the lights and one for installing them.
    LED lights last 20 to 25 years, compared to five years of life with the city’s existing high-pressure sodium and mercury-vapor lights that produce an amber or yellow color. That change alone will result in significant savings with maintenance crews having to replace burned-out bulbs, Daggett said.
    The initial cost per LED light is about double the cost of the traditional streetlight bulb, a difference is quickly made up, Daggett said.
    “But within five years,” he said, “that’s all paid back. The energy savings will really be significant.”
    As demonstrated Monday night, LED lights aren’t like traditional light bulbs. Instead, LEDs – light-emitting diodes – are basically computer chips. In Independence, about 11,000 lights will be replaced in a six-month period, going on the existing poles at the existing heights of the old lights.
    Mark Homan, director of business development at Philips Lighting, said Independence is a leader for cities of its size in the Midwest in converting to LED technology. He said Philips Lighting has devoted much time to research and development on LED streetlights and that it’ll be the technology for the next 20 to 25 years.
    “I do business all over the country. Independence has done probably a better job in doing research on this subject over the last couple of years than most people,” Homan said. “We had a number of early initiators who jumped into business and bought a product that wasn’t fully rationalized yet, and they’re paying the price now.
    “Independence has done the due diligence. You’ve done your homework, and you’ve waited until the right time to buy the product, and I think now is actually a viable time to go with LED.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The more ornamental and decorative city street lights won’t be addressed just yet in the initial switch over, Daggett said. Public meetings will take place to further educate the public on the transition.
    District 2 Council Member Curt Dougherty asked which streetlights exist within state-maintained right-of-way areas, which includes U.S. 24 and 40, Missouri 291 and 78 and part of Truman Road.
    “As people drive down these main thoroughfares, they’re going to see a real difference between the city’s area and the state’s area,” Dougherty said. “That will be a question that comes up.”
    City Manager Robert Heacock said city staff would meet with state officials, once the project moves forward, to discuss the benefits of converting to LED lights, including appearance, light pollution and the deterrence of crime.
    “Perhaps we can encourage them to do that,” Heacock said. “It doesn’t make sense for one part of our community to look one way and another part to look one way. ... It’s in our interest and in the state’s interest to do a total conversion.”
    The Public Utilities Advisory Board also heard an in-depth presentation on LED lights in December, and board members endorsed the concept. Heacock also thanked citizens like community member John Pennell who kept the concept of LED lights at the forefront of city officials’ minds.
    “We are trying to listen to those voices,” Heacock said. “I think we want to be both environmentally conscious and financially astute for the city. I’m happy to see that we’re moving in that direction.”
     

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