Lit Up by LEDs: Raleigh’s Streetlight Revolution

Sustainable Raleigh Spotlight Feature

News posted Aug. 29, 2016 - 6:00 am
Before and After LEDs

Streetlight Coordinator Dustin Brice just finished a streetlight revolution. The City’s high-pressure sodium (HPS) vapor lights have been almost completely replaced with light-emitting diodes, or LEDs.

“We still have a few scattered fixtures around town,” said Brice, “but we finished the bulk of the changeover around July 4 of this year.”

The switch is projected to save taxpayers $400,000 every year. LED lights only need to be replaced every 15 to 20 years, instead of the previous standard of two to three years.

The replacements began in 2011 with five pilot locations. “The price for LEDs was dropping all the time,” said Brice. “It just made sense.”

Brice said after positive feedback from the community, the City started requiring new streetlight installations to use LEDs. The City contracts street lighting with Duke Energy Progress, and by 2015 they had 1,500 LEDs installed.

“But we really got serious in the spring of 2015,” said Brice. They decided to light the entire city with LEDs.

Duke Energy Progress started changing out the lights near the State Fairgrounds and made their way clockwise around the city.

Sodium vapor lamps use gas and an electrical charge to excite electrons, shedding light particles in the process. LEDs, on the other hand, use half the amount of electricity by exciting electrons with a semi-conducting material.

In addition to saving energy and money, Brice said that LEDs translate to better visibility and more safety on the roads. Sodium vapor lights glow a yellow-ish orange, making it difficult to identify objects at night. “They make everything look bright orange,” said Brice. “The grass doesn’t even look green.” The silvery, moonlight quality of LEDs illuminate objects with more detail and natural color.

The savings from LEDs also led to an extension of the streetlight network.

“We didn’t have much wiggle room in the budget before, but now we are able to do more,” he said.

The City’s website has more information on the benefits of LEDs and the history of the program.

This Sustainable Raleigh Spotlight is one in a series of City of Raleigh sustainability stories.

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