Grand Rapids to upgrade streets with LED lights

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The city has approximately 18,000 streetlights, and 2,000 already have been converted to LEDs through maintenance and various street and piloting projects. Courtesy city of Grand Rapids

The Grand Rapids City Commission approved the adoption of LED lights for all neighborhood street lighting.

The commission’s approval awards a contract to Strain Electric to replace existing street lighting throughout the city with LED lights. The contract amount is approximately $6.2 million and will not exceed $9.46 million when automated system controls are added.

“Our primary goal in arriving at this decision was the safety of our residents and neighborhoods, which is a critical objective in the city’s strategic plan,” said James Hurt, managing director of public services. “We know that most accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists happen at night, and many of those are the result of poor visibility. Additionally, better lighting will make residents feel safer in their own neighborhoods — cities like Detroit have seen great results when they transitioned to this LED temperature for their street lighting.”

The selection progress included a heads-up competition of delivery through a traditional contract method or contracting through an energy service company. The traditional method proved to provide lower life-cycle costs.

The city has approximately 18,000 streetlights, and 2,000 already have been converted to LEDs through maintenance and various street and piloting projects. When the remaining 16,000 lights are replaced, the city expects an estimated annual energy savings of approximately $350,000.

The city formed an LED pilot team composed of city staff and engineering consulting firm GeoTech in 2019. The group recommended changing to LEDs after research, analysis and community engagement, which included surveys in targeted neighborhoods and a side-by-side comparison of two light color temperature options.

“Color temperatures in LED lights are measured in kelvins and range from warm orange (lower kelvins) to cool blue (higher kelvins) tones. The city selected 4,000 (kelvins), which offers a good balance and closely represents natural moonlight,” said Bruce Sweeris, utility systems manager.

In making this change, Grand Rapids joins 314 of the country’s largest cities (those with more than 100,000 residents) who have adopted this temperature color of LED lighting for all their street lighting.

In addition to the safety issues, Sweeris cited other key reasons for the adoption of LED lighting:

Cost-saving benefits

  • Lower energy costs: 4,000 K LED lights have been proven to be slightly more efficient than 3,000 K, resulting in a reduction in energy across the city’s street lighting system.
  • Less inventory: The city considered using both 3,000 K (local streets) and 4,000 K (major streets), however, this would require stocking 33 street lighting fixture types instead of 18, increasing inventory costs if both fixture types are required; this transition will result in an estimated $75,000 annual savings.
  • Labor costs – the transition to solely 4,000 K lighting will reduce costs for
    engineering and design staff, who will not have to invest time in determining
    which color temperature is to be used at intersections for major and local streets
    and in residential, business, commercial and downtown areas of the city.

Environmental benefits

  • Transitioning to 4,000 K lighting will further reduce greenhouse and carbon dioxide emissions as well as the city’s overall carbon footprint.

Operational efficiencies

  • Real-time monitoring to detect any issues, problems as they arise
  • Diagnostics to collect data, measure energy usage in real time
  • Dimming capabilities as necessary due to weather, to address
    neighborhood/resident issues and to increase lighting levels as LED fixture
    outputs degrade over time.

Residents can expect to see the change in their neighborhoods starting this summer. The citywide LED project is estimated to last 18 months.

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