$250,000 for "smart" street lights - a bright idea because they can be dimmed

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
September 8th, 2010

 Never mind the streetcar named desire – in Castlegar, the powers-that-be are desiring street lights instead, so much so that they’re investing a quarter of a million dollars to get them.

City director of transportation and civic works, Chris Barlow, said the more-than 900 new street lights will pay for themselves within six-and-a-half years, as a result of the energy savings they’ll promote.
“It’s a huge deal – we’ll be one of the first municipalities in B.C. to have adaptive street lights,” he said, explaining each light is connected to a computer network with dimmers, allowing civic works staff to remotely increase or lower the wattage output according to need (not to mention trouble shooting when repairs or replacements are required).
“It will potentially allow us to reduce our power use by 50 per cent,” he said, explaining Fortis BC is also giving the city a rebate to help defer the costs of the program, making the whole concept yet more appealing.
Barlow said concerns over public safety are unfounded – often, the lights are putting out far higher wattage than is necessary, and the city is addressing this excess, not reducing visibility in any meaningful (or dangerous) way.
In fact, he said a pilot project involving 10 lights here in town has elicited not a single comment from residents, to city staff or council, as it appears no one even noticed the change.
But the city budget, he said, will absolutely notice the change, as will the environment, as the city continues with its efforts to reduce Castlegar’s environmental footprint.
“Sooner or later, every municipality is going to go here, and Castlegar’s leading the way,” he said.
City councillor Russ Hearne said there’s an economic benefit attached to environmental leadership in this case, above and beyond the energy savings.
“It’s a relatively new technology that’s not hugely in demand yet – but we think it will be, in the next year or so,” he said. “Because we’re getting in on the ground floor, we’re getting price discounts from the manufacturer that I think won’t be there when demand for these lights skyrockets.
“It’s an awesome project, with incredible savings for Castlegar taxpayers.”
Hearne said the city hopes to begin the installation work this fall, but completion dates will be dictated by weather.

Categories: General