Local News Spotlight

It’s time to tell cities what you think of new streetlights

Updated: 2013-01-14T05:03:30Z

By TED HART

The Kansas City Star

More than 5,000 new streetlights have been installed on streets around the area to save money, and many more may be on the way.

The lights are part of a pilot project to see which type of lights work best.

The Mid-America Regional Council, partnering with utility companies, spearheaded the effort to install LED (light-emitting diode) and induction streetlights. Both LED and induction lights have longer life spans than ordinary street lamps and are more energy efficient.

“The reasons communities are looking at LED are because they look like an opportunity to save costs,” said Roger Kroh, MARC’s energy program manager. “The biggest single electrical cost that most cities have is street lighting.”

Although an ordinary street lamp has a life span of about four years, the LED lights usually last more than 10 years, Kroh said.

The primary drawback to LED lighting, though, is the cost, said David Sutphin, a Kansas City Power & Light energy consultant. When the program started, equipment could cost four or five times what the more common high-pressure sodium lights cost.

Since then, however, the price of LED lights has continued to decline, from about $600 a few years ago to about $350 now, Kroh said.

After experimenting with six types of LED and induction fixtures through the MARC program, Harrisonville decided to make induction lights the primary replacement for older lights that expire.

Keith Thomas, Harrisonville’s electric utility director, said police like the new lights because they make the streets brighter.

And so far Kroh has received mostly positive feedback.

“Out of the 5,000 lights, I’ve gotten less than 20 complaints, and all but a couple of those complaints were addressed by adjusting the fixtures or adding shields,” Kroh said.

There are about 250,000 streetlights in the Kansas City area, which means that only about 2 percent of streetlights have been replaced with the new lights. Maps of their locations are at www.marc.org/environment/energy/smartlights.htm.

MARC next will solicit public comment on the new lights through a series of town hall meetings.

Although the program has focused on smaller municipalities, larger cities have also been experimenting. Kansas City, for example, is testing LED lights at nine locations.

Likewise, cities around the nation, including Seattle, Los Angeles and Boston, are in the process of converting the older high-pressure sodium and metal halide lights to LEDs.

The local project was made possible through a $4 million grant from the Department of Energy, and MARC partnered with KCP&L, the Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative and Westar Energy in installing the new lights.

The 25 cities participating in the Smart Lights for Smart Cities initiative are Basehor, Lansing, Tonganoxie, Edwardsville, Fairway, Gardner, Merriam, Mission, Prairie Village, Roeland Park, Spring Hill, Westwood, Harrisonville, Peculiar, Pleasant Hill, Raymore, Gladstone, Kearney, Lawson, Liberty, Smithville, North Kansas City, Oak Grove, Raytown and Platte City.

Ted Hart is a winter intern at The Star. Follow him at Twitter.com/tedhartii.

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