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Yellow to white: city proposes switching streetlights to LED bulbs

Craig Pearson, Jul 26, 2015 – 10:55 PM EDT


Windsorites could see more clearly in the future.

An administration report going to city council Aug. 4 recommends that Windsor convert all 22,000 of its standard street lights from the current high-pressure sodium bulbs to more efficient LED versions. The 2,000 decorative street lamps in the city, found largely in business improvement areas, would not be changed this go-round.

The conversion project would cost $16.6 million, but the city could recoup $1.5 million of that from the retrofit program of the Independent Electricity System Operator, a Crown corporation operating Ontario’s electricity market.

City council would have to approve the proposal, though the estimated savings are significant: roughly $32 million over 15 years on electricity and maintenance costs.

“It’s a win for the taxpayer,” city treasurer Onorio Colucci said last week. “The service will be as good if not better, and the costs will certainly be lower.”

City solicitor Shelby Askin Hager, who has been working on the project since 2013 when she was in purchasing, believes the benefits are more than financial — though she acknowledges the new light may take some getting used to. Some people consider yellow light warmer.

“People will notice,” she said. “It will look different. But it’s a really great opportunity for the city in terms of not just energy savings but cutting down on light pollution.”

The main difference: light from LED — which stands for light-emitting diode — is whiter than the yellower high-pressure sodium bulbs used now. But it’s as if the high-tech light is better projected, and does not allow light to seep out everywhere as much.

“It’s a more focused light,” Askin Hager said. “The bright spot is on the ground. It’s not diluted at a higher level.

“If you fly over a city at night at a fairly low altitude, you can see it glowing orange. An LED city doesn’t look like that. The roads are illuminated almost in a line.”

If approved, the conversion project — which would swap out bulbs, not fixtures — would likely begin in October. The plan is to finish by the end of June next year.

Askin Hager said people can see better with LED lights, which also happen to be gentler on the environment.

“It will create a more standard brightness, which has become the standard across North America,” she said. “It’s a really important thing for safety and for liability issues.”

Askin Hager said a few pilot projects in the area have proven both the difference in light and the cost savings, such as on Lincoln Road south of Wyandotte Street. Belle River has already switched to LED streetlights on Notre Dame Street, its main drag.

“The light is better,” Askin Hager said. “It can be brighter, but brighter where it’s supposed to be.”