Town lighting up new LED streetlights

Okotoks: New developments must use LEDs, other conversions in the future

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Thursday, Aug 28, 2014 12:58 pm

Mayor Bill Robertson installs LED lights back in 2011 with a Fortis Technician.
Mayor Bill Robertson installs LED lights back in 2011 with a Fortis Technician.
Wheel File Photo

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The orange glow of the night sky over Okotoks is going to start looking a little different as the Town slowly begins implementing LED streetlights.

On Aug. 18 council made it mandatory for all new subdivisions to install LED streetlights as opposed to the previously used high pressure sodium lights.

Many developers are already using the LED lights, as they have shown to have to have a much longer lifespan, use less energy, and require less maintenance.

While some new communities already have LED lights, FortisAlberta, who owns and maintains the streetlights in town, completed an LED streetlight community assessment in 2011 where it switched streetlights from High Pressure Ssodium to LED lights in the Rosemont and Cimarron areas and along 32 St. neighbourhoods.

Fortis collected feedback from residents in those communities, and Okotoks engineer projects coordinator Dan Kutzner said those results were positive, and indicated that people were in favour of the new lights.

But the town isn’t quite ready to replace the 24,000 streetlights in Okotoks with LED’s yet, largely because of the cost. While they end up saving money in the long run, the report submitted to council said switching the lights is likely to cost $900 per light, but the expected savings would only be $1.50 per month, meaning the town wouldn’t see pay back for 50 years.

There were also some concerns that the LED lights could have negative health impacts. The report references studies that looked at irregular melatonin levels that cause sleeping problems, mood disorders, and some cancers. Melatonin is a hormone that controls sleep cycles, and is suppressed when exposed to bright light. The concern was the LED lights would prohibit production of Melatonin even from behind curtains. But the report states that the study found the connection between the lights and Melatonin production to be unlikely, and suggests that any implemented lights have a correlated colour temperature of 5,000 Kelvin or less to prevent that problem.

Mayor Bill Robertson said after seeing the report he felt LEDs would be a good option over the long term.

“There was a small concern about health risks with the prolonged exposure behind curtains when people are sleeping at night … everything we do at council you have to weigh the risks. The better lighting and cost efficiencies, does that outweigh what might be perceived as not even a health risk?” he said. “I only saw one study that suggested there might be a slight health risk. If it comes out there are serious health risks then we would change it back or change it to something else.”

The City of Calgary recently received council approval to begin switching its lights over to LED, and will begin by doing five communities this year and seeing how it goes. The cost is expected to be $1.2 million, but if they were to move ahead with the whole city at a cost of $32 million, they would expect to see payback in six years from reduced electricity consumption.

Robertson said Okotoks will begin to switch over lights in other communities as well when existing ones reach the end of their lifecycle. Individual lights can not be switched out because the difference in light colouring would be too great if a HPS and LED light were next to each other, so entire streets will need to be done at the same time.

“I expect when retrofits are done they will probably go to new LED lights, but we wouldn’t retrofit them until it's time to do them,” said Robertson. “You'd have to do it in adjacent communities. If this life cycle needs to be changed out we would probably do everything in proximity to that neighbourhood.”

On a smaller scale, council approved the lights along the wall of the library and the recreation centre parking lot lights, which are owned by the town, to be switched over to LEDs at a cost of $60,000.

Sustainability coordinator Dawn Smith is looking forward to seeing the parking lot LEDs light up.

“It's a huge energy saver, they use a lot less energy and are a huge maintenance cost saver. The existing type of bulbs that they have require a lot of changing, and maintenance and that’s a huge time consumer as well, whereas LEDs have an extremely long lifespan,” she said. “They are designed not cause light pollution, they actually have a much more controlled force so you have less ambient light being released into the sky and to surrounding neighbourhoods, while your actual lighting on the ground is brighter.”

“The technology with lighting has come a long way,” she added.


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