By Mikael Krummel

LEDs, aka light emitting diodes: Most professionals in the traffic safety business or public utility sphere would confidently say LEDs are some of the brightest stars in their industries.

The LED streetlight project in Springfield has been in play for more than half a decade, with lights getting swapped out as needed. Despite some early objections over labor and material costs, the rationales for upgrading the city’s 5,000 public light fixtures with new control units and bulbs are proving to be sound. The work by Springfield Public Works planners plus Riverline Power installers does indeed glow.

A decade ago, Springfield had an abundance of dim, monochromatic, low pressure sodium bulbs installed in city lampposts. There were also some yellow-tinted high pressure sodium fixtures. The lighting was generally difficult to aim, and bulbs consumed power that converted into measurable heat rather than light.

“LEDs are far more efficient for two reasons,” says Scott Miller, an operations engineer overseeing the swap out. “One reason is the amount of power consumed. It’s the same reason you see many people replacing older lights in their homes with LEDs. A 100-watt light in your home can be replaced by a 10-watt LED. Same concept underlies streetlight swaps.”

LEDs also have a much longer life span, reducing costs for maintenance crews once short-lived older bulbs get replaced. The older bulbs needed replacing on average every 3 years. The new LEDs boast 20-year life spans. “We expect about 70% less maintenance costs,” says Miller.

Other good news? Springfield’s streetlight swap was fully funded with a $3.2 million federal grant. In effect, the ambitious project didn’t cost local citizens a penny. Equally impressive is the immediate cost savings resulting directly from improved LED efficiency and reduced fixture maintenance.

Now that the swap-out is nearly complete, the combined savings resulting from the new streetlights is estimated at $200,000 annually. And officials project that other savings from eliminating the older, less efficient lighting will continue to pay future dividends.