Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Green lights

Last summer I wrote about a new initiative by Gulf Power to install more environmentally friendly lighting. The lights recently were installed, and they are definitely worth a look.

The new lights are in the park-like space between the main Gulf Power building and 9th Av, between Salamanca and Romana. They utilize new LED street light technology and are part of a nationwide test program to assess the performance of LED lights as street lights. LEDs are more efficient than regular lighting, and we currently use them in our stop lights and pedestrian crossing lights. However, a few technical issues remain in determining if they are satisfactory for street lights; hence the test.

If this test is successful, switching our street lighting to LED would provide significant energy and, therefore, cost savings. The city spends $730,000 on electricity for street lights annually. These LED lights are 60W and replaced 100W fixtures. Switching all of the lights in this manner would lead to a 40% decrease in cost, a savings of nearly $300,000 each year. (Of course, there could be differences from this, depending on the wattage differences, and there would be costs of buying new equipment.) In addition to the energy savings, LED lights are expected to be replaced at much lower frequency, saving labor costs.

Check out the lights, day and night. Interestingly, they are opposite a few different kinds of lights for your comparison. One thing you might notice is that they are in a clear globe, but at night, the vast majority of the light shines down. This is an additional energy-saving feature--why would we need to light the sky? These lights are "semi-cutoff", allowing some light to go upwards, but directing most of it to where it is needed. (While you are down there, check out the lighting on Bayfront Parkway. On the southeast side, the lights that were replaced after Ivan are full-cutoff, meaning their light is only directed toward the ground, while those on the northwest side are more traditional street lights.)

The technology for energy efficient lighting is improving every year, and I am hopeful that this pilot program will prove a success, and we can move toward more efficient, environmentally-friendly lighting for our community.