Savings, aesthetics of LED praised, but streetlight conversion could cost Pittsburgh $13M |

Savings, aesthetics of LED praised, but streetlight conversion could cost Pittsburgh $13M

New LED streetlights are brightening Louisa Street in Oakland, a neighborhood organizer says.

“It gives you more color, and it looks better,” said Elly Fisher, assistant director of the Oakland Planning & Development Corp., which has offices on Louisa.

“It’s brighter. There’s less shadows on the street, so it’s safer for residents and everybody, really. It looks very space age,” she said.

Since 2008, the city has converted about 12 percent of its 40,000 streetlights to LED, which officials say can deliver energy savings of as much as 60 percent.

Pittsburgh spends nearly $1.1 million a year to light its streets, primarily with low-pressure sodium vapor bulbs. Officials estimate the cash-strapped city could save as much as $650,000 a year by converting all of its lights to LED.

“Worldwide, everyone will be switching to LED,” Mayor Bill Peduto said. “It’s just wasting money to keep the fixtures that we have now.”

Communities across the region, including Mt. Lebanon, Tarentum and Collier, are making the switch. Ellwood City finished converting its outside lighting to LED this year, Manager Bob Villella said.

“One recent analysis that we did on lights we replaced in a parking lot found that our energy consumption decreased by close to 50 percent,” he said.

Pittsburgh has spent about $3 million replacing nearly 5,000 lights in 50 neighborhood business districts and Downtown. Officials estimate it could cost another $13 million to replace the rest.

It’s cash the city doesn’t have, officials say, noting that the city struggles to pave streets and maintain public buildings.

Peduto said it could take up to 10 years to convert remaining lights with money from the capital budget, federal grants and low-interest loans.

The city is converting lights on major streets such as Forbes Avenue, Fifth Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard.

Six years ago, the city converted its traffic lights — 16,800 bulbs in all — to LED, resulting in annual savings of $328,000.

Jim Sloss, deputy director of the Department of Innovation and Performance and the former energy utilities manager, said lights on neighborhood streets are the next step.

“We’re figuring roughly 35,000 lights spread out over 55 square miles,” he said.

Ben Carlise, who heads the streetlight conversion project with Sloss, said the city is paying the North Side’s Allegheny Lighting $100,000 to conduct an inventory of every streetlight. When that’s done, the city will seek proposals to replace them.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or [email protected].

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