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Jul 23, 2012
WELLAND - It really began even before the City of Welland added new LED streetlights along Fitch St., back in 2005.
Welland’s current mayor Barry Sharpe said his predecessor Damian Goulbourne was looking for opportunities for Welland-based LED light manufacturer CRS Electronics.
“Through Damian’s efforts and David Ferguson (the city’s parking and traffic manager), we began exploring the emerging technology of lights, and went ahead with the pilot project on Fitch St.,” Sharpe said.
While CRS might have been the motivation, Sharpe said that company has “grown in a different direction” and hasn’t been part of the city’s LED streetlight projects. CRS has instead focused on household lighting products.
But the initiative still “got us looking in the right direction,” Sharpe added.
The city pressed on, hiring Ellwood City, Pa.-based Appalachian Lighting Systems to supply the new LED streetlights. And in April this year, the city became the first municipality in North America to begin a complete retrofit program to replace its old high pressure sodium streetlights to new LEDs.
It’s been a little more challenging than anticipated to install 4,300 new high-tech LED streetlights in the city, Ferguson said.
The $4.4-million project which began in April was originally to be finished by the end of August, is now expected to take until early October to complete.
“We’ve had a couple of issues that popped up as the project has gone along,” he said.
Ferguson said one challenge workers installing the lights from Trans-Test Line Contractors have faced is streetlight poles of different diameters. Adapters had to be ordered to allow the new LED fixtures to fit on some of the poles.
“We had to wait for those to come in,” he said.
Another minor set back was in regard to installing the lighting control systems, but that too has been resolved.
Ferguson said they “expected glitches to happen. … It’s pushed us back a bit.”
Still, he said about 30% of the project — 1,300 lights — have been installed so far, and the city has already seen some energy savings as a result of the new streetlights.
“We’re looking at a monthly savings of about 400,000 kilowatt hours,” Ferguson said.
But that hasn’t necessarily reduced the city’s electricity bill. About a month after the city began its LED installation project, the city learned that hydro rates were increasing which offset any savings the city might have realized through reduced power consumption.
However, he said the city’s costs would be far higher if they still had high pressure sodium bulbs lighting the city streets.
The city still has 2,410 decorative light fixtures to replace with LED lights in the second phase of the project, expected to get underway next year.
Even after the cost of installing the new lights is deducted, the city will still have a net savings of $2.4 million over the next 15 years as a result of the project.
The Rose City may be leading the way, but its Niagara neighbours aren’t far behind when it comes to replacing streetlights with LED fixtures.
Work on Welland’s retrofitting project is well underway with the completion of the first phase expected this fall. When the $4.4-million project is complete, the city expects to net more than $2 million in savings over the next 15 years.
Neighbouring communities have also made headway towards installing LED streetlights, with pilot projects underway to gauge the effectiveness of the high-tech lighting.
St. Catharines and Niagara Falls have installed LEDs along several of their roads as part of pilot projects.
Niagara Falls was host to the mayors of about 100 municipalities during an LED conference in September. The city was demonstrating the 157 of the city’s 10,000 streetlights that were temporarily replaced with LEDs. Ultimately, the city intends to replace all of its streetlights with LED, pending the outcome of studies on the lighting.
And St. Catharines city council passed a motion in April asking city staff to prepare a report on the implications of installing LED streetlights throughout the city, including the potential costs of the project as well as the expected return on the investment. The city is also exploring potential partnerships or incentives to make the project a reality, as well as possible upper-tier government funding.
Port Colborne, too, is exploring alternatives to spending $270,000 or so a year on supplying electricity to its 1,880 streetlights, including LED light fixtures as well as solar panels.
Welland’s parking and traffic manager David Ferguson recently led a tour with representatives from neighbouring municipalities including St. Catharines, Port Colborne and Fort Erie who were interested in their own LED projects.
He said Appalachian Lighting, the company that manufactured Welland’s new streetlights, has also been in contact with all of Niagara’s municipalities.
“They’re all looking at LED lighting,” he said. “They’re all going to follow this route.”
Allan Benner, The Tribune, July 16, 2012