LED conversion project to save residents $5 million over 15 years

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A project to convert 75 percent of City of Tacoma’s streetlights to LED technology, which started last December, is now a third of the way completed.

The project, a partnership between City of Tacoma’s Public Works and Tacoma Public Utilities, aims to upgrade 16,000 of the city’s overhead streetlights to energy-efficient LED lights by the end of 2018.

“We are replacing almost all of the cobra-head and shoe-box style fixtures with LED cobra-head fixtures,” said Leigh Starr, city project manager. “There is a handful that we cannot replace because of the circuitry. The overhead-cobra and shoebox style fixtures represent about 75 percent of the City’s infrastructure, but represent 83 percent of the energy consumption.

“We are not replacing 14-foot residential ornamental post-top-style fixtures and the ornamental commercial district fixtures with new LED fixtures because of expense,” Starr said. “We will convert the ornamental fixtures to LED lamps as the lamps burn out and need to be repaired.”

The reason for converting to LED was inspired by the potential energy savings, first and foremost. The new LED fixtures are anticipated to last between 15 and 20 years. The project is estimated to save Tacoma residents $5 million over the course of 15 years. A secondary benefit is the reduction in light pollution and the lesser quantity of “blue” light emitted, which was deemed unhealthy in a June 2016 study published by The American Medical Association. The color of the LED light will increase vehicle and pedestrian safety and won’t distort the true color of objects in the road, unlike the old lights did, Starr explained.

“These fixtures do not have any up-lighting, which contributes to nighttime pollution and affects nocturnal creatures,” Starr said. “There is better control over how the light is distributed.”

Starr said she is hopeful the City can convert 95 percent of city lights to LED within the next three to five years.

“There will be a small number that will be very difficult to convert for a variety of reasons, but they will be the exception,” Starr said.

Visit cityoftacoma.org/LEDStreetlights to learn more about the project.

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