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St. Louis replacing streetlights, says it will save money and energy

LED light beside a decades old bulb-based streetlight fixture.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

An initiative to update streetlights could save the City of St. Louis more than $150,000 a year. Installation of new LED technology is already underway and the city says the effort should improve lighting, especially in some dark areas on local roads.

The initial phase involves nearly 5,000 LED fixtures that will replace current high-pressure sodium light bulbs on major routes like Grand Boulevard and Kingshighway.
Each LED unit has a price of roughly $200.

"The cost of an LED fixture is basically the same price as a high pressure sodium fixture," said St. Louis Traffic Commissioner Deanna Venker.

"The bonus is that the LED fixture is going to save you over 40 percent in utility costs as well as reduce your carbon footprint. And it's going to reduce your maintenance costs as well."

Those savings will help the city finance the project. It has taken out a $1 million, low-interest loan from the Missouri Department of Economic Development-Division of Energy. The anticipated savings will be used to pay off the loan in less than eight years.

The fund for the state program started in 1989. The state's website says more than 570 loans have been awarded, leading to the completion of nearly $100 million in energy projects with total efficiency-related savings of roughly $180 million.

This year's streetlight replacement work in St. Louis should be complete in around eight months.

"That's kind of weather pending," Venker told St. Louis Public Radio.

"And then, for the entire system we're looking at about 8-to-10 years depending on funding and the availability of it."

There are plans to apply for similar loans in the years ahead.

The effort falls in line with the city's Sustainability Plan. Mayor Francis Slay launched the initiative a few years ago to advance concepts ranging from urban character and ecology to arts, culture and innovation, and infrastructure, facilities and transportation.

"We have identified a path toward being a world-class sustainable city," Slay wrote in 2013.

As part of that initiative, the city estimates the new LED fixtures should produce at least 40 percent in energy savings and up to 75 percent on street light maintenance.

Ameren Missouri launched a similar program with its streetlights last year.  John Luth, director of contractor management for Ameren, told St. Louis Public Radio that it was a a five-year effort involving the replacement of 125,000 older bulbs on utility-owned poles.

“It’s the same amount of light, but a whole lot less energy," he said at the time.

LED is the acronym for light-emitting diode. The technology is more efficient and durable than older lighting source like incandescent, compact fluorescent, or CFL, bulbs, according to Energystar.gov.

Follow Wayne Pratt on Twitter: @WayneRadio

Wayne is the morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.

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