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Bright lights, big city: Elgin to retrofit streetlights with LED systems

The ElgCity Council is set move along plan retrofit city-maintained street parking lot lights with LED systems. The Eastside RecreatiCenter

The Elgin City Council is set to move along a plan to retrofit city-maintained street and parking lot lights with LED systems. The Eastside Recreation Center parking lot already has new LED lights made by GNP Energy, the some company that makes the retrofit versions the city intends to have installed. | Photos courtesy Dan Rich, city of Elgin

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Updated: January 4, 2014 6:09AM

ELGIN — The city council Wednesday night is set to approve paying for the initial phase of a project that would retrofit a portion of the city’s streetlights with LED systems to save energy and maintenance costs.

The first of four phases would include streetlights on Kimball Street, Slade Avenue, in the Northwest Corporate Center, along Big Timber Road, and on a portion of Shales Parkway. They were chosen based on their location, traffic and pedestrian flows, variety of lighting styles and because these areas are on metered systems for which the city pays the electricity costs.

This initial phase also would include technology that allows the lights to be dimmed during off-peak hours, which would result in additional energy savings. Because LED lights typically remain in service longer than the types being used now, the city anticipates fewer maintenance costs, too.

All told, Elgin crews maintain about 4,500 streetlights in the city, including on-street lighting and the lighting used outside various city facilities and in city parking lots. The plan eventually would have all the city’s streetlights replaced with LED types.

According to supporting material for the Wednesday meeting, while Elgin has a small number of older LED lights, most of the city-maintained streetlights are metal halide and sodium vapor bulbs.

“The metal halide and sodium vapor lighting has served the city well, but those lights consume up to 80 percent more energy than their LED counterparts and require approximately three to four times the maintenance,” the supporting material states.

Public Works Superintendent Dan Rich said the LED lights will cast a bright glow similar to what Elgin residents are used to seeing from current lighting. Along with dimming, the lights can be kept at maximum brightness should an area need it, Rich noted.

Project costs for this first phase include $249,145 for the retrofit and installation of the lighting — with a bid set to be awarded to Utility Dynamics Corporation. Because the city does not have its own electrical engineer, another $19,900 for engineering fees would be paid to Chastain and Associates, a firm for which former Elgin Public Services Director David Lawry is now director of municipal services.

Cost savings

The bid specifically sought companies that work with product from GNP Energy Inc. According to that company’s website, its products are made in the United States and come with a 10-year warranty. Rich said as part of renovations unveiled over summer, the parking lot of the Eastside Recreation Center parking lot now has new LED lights from the company’s line.

Elgin hopes to recoup up to $77,696 for the project in rebates from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity if the project is done by May 15. An additional 5 percent rebate, or $3,390, is available through DCEO if the project is completed by Feb. 14, the supporting material states.

“The cost of operating LED lights is approximately 20 to 30 percent of the traditional metal halide or sodium vapor lights. The city is estimated to spend approximately $530,000 on energy charges relating to streetlights in 2013. Once the entire citywide conversion is complete, it is suggested that the city will realize energy savings of approximately $370,000 annually,” the material states.

If all goes as planned, the second phase of the project would retrofit metered systems on the city’s main thoroughfares such as McLean Boulevard and National Street. The third phase would address lights on the remaining metered systems to be retrofitted in a 2015-16 initiative.

The final phase would retrofit remaining non-metered streetlights over several years and poses a challenge for implementation: ComEd bills the city a flat rate for the non-metered lights; for Elgin to realize cost savings, the utility provider would have to reduce these charges.

According to the supporting material, “A quick analysis of the project concludes that the project will reduce the kilowatt hours used by 2,691,168 hours and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 3,401,981 pounds.”

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