Cary installing nearly 8,000 LED street lights

aspecht@newsobserver.comJanuary 30, 2014 

— The town is replacing nearly 8,000 street lights with LEDs, a move that is expected to save Cary more than $200,000 a year.

Like many towns, most of Cary’s street fixtures power high-pressure sodium lights.

LED, which stands for light-emitting diode, lights are typically brighter, last about four times longer, use less energy and turn on instantly.

Perhaps their biggest draw is that they’re cheaper to run.

With that in mind, Cary leaders last fall inked a deal with Duke Energy to replace about 7,700 of its 10,000 street lights with LED fixtures.

It will cost about $385,000 to install the new lights over the next year. Once they’re installed, the LEDs will shave thousands of dollars a year off Cary’s $1.7 million annual street-light bill.

“LED fixtures now available are more cost effective and provide improved quality of light compared to our current light fixtures,” said Kyle Hubert, a Cary project engineer

The Town Council’s decision to switch to mostly LED lights follows what the town considers to be a successful pilot program in 2010.

Cary used grant funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the federal stimulus, to install 34 LED street lights on James Jackson Avenue, Northwest Cary Parkway, North Academy Street and Ambassador Loop between Town Hall and the train tracks.

The town saved $5,000 a year from the project and received positive feedback from residents.

Other towns also have heard good things about switching to LED lights, said Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks.

Municipalities of all sizes are approaching Duke Energy about trading in the old for the new. Asheville installed about 7,000 LEDs, while smaller municipalities such as Knightdale, Oxford and Elm City, have also agreed to switch, he said.

“It’s an emerging market,” he said. “We expect that trend to continue as we look to provide more options to local governments.”

Cary began installing the new lights on Monday, a week after the Holly Springs Town Council voted to replace 1,748 street lights with LEDs at a cost of $76,000.

Affordability is just one reason municipalities are interested in LED lights, Brooks said. The technology also helps towns pursue their sustainability goals.

That’s the case in Cary. The light replacement helps the town meet the goals of its Strategic Energy Action Plan, which the Town Council approved in 2012. The plan calls for Cary to reduce its energy use and carbon footprint by 50 percent.

The only downside in sight: minor traffic shifts.

Cary will install the new LED lights on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the next 12 months, which may temporarily change traffic patterns in some areas.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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