City of Asheville streetlight LED upgrades begin this week

The City of Asheville’s push to increase energy efficiency and reduce the city’s overall carbon footprint takes a big step forward this week with the replacement of street light bulbs in two neighborhoods with LED lights. The LED (light-emitting diode) lights, use dramatically less energy than standard bulbs, which means a significant reduction in energy costs to the city.

Some 900 street lights, primarily in Asheville’s River District and Kenilworth neighborhoods, are being replaced during the first phase of the push, and will represent $45,000 in annual energy costs. Installation is expected to be complete by the end of June.

Maggie Ullman, Energy Coordinator with the city’s Office of Sustainability, says the upgrade to LED street lights represents one of the most exciting developments since the office was created three years ago to examine ways to reduce the City of Asheville’s energy use. And, she says, it reaffirms Asheville’s role as a leader in carbon footprint reduction.

“This is is a very big deal for Asheville. It is a highly visible step that will represent real savings.” Ullman said. “This first phase will represent the largest municipal LED installation in North Carolina.”

In 2009, Asheville City Council unanimously approved using Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to fund efficiency initiatives, including the first phase of the streetlight replacement. The revolving fund will roll energy savings back into the city’s green and efficiency initiatives.

Council and staff are currently working on opportunities for the second phase, which would represent a complete LED replacement for all 9,000 city streetlights and result in more that $600,000 in annual savings.

The Office Of Sustainability and the Community Relations Division have been working for the past several months to coordinate the replacement launch, including working with partners Progress Energy and BetaLED and getting word to neighborhoods included in the phase one installation. That outreach includes making announcements at community meetings and in neighborhood newsletters. The city has also set up an information page on its website with frequently asked questions and answers about the LED up-fitting.

Alongside energy savings, the new LED light bulbs may have a different appearance than standard lighting, especially if the older bulbs have aged and dimmed. The primary difference will be the color, which have a a crisp white/blue tint. But, Ullman says, the lights meet all local, state and federal lighting safety requirements.

The installations will also conform to a 2006 lighting ordinance approved by City Council designed to reduce glare and light pollution.

The LED street light replacement is the latest in a list of green and energy efficient initiatives designed to reduce the City of Asheville’s energy use and carbon footprint. Last year, the city completed an energy efficient lighting retrofit for City Hall expected to save $15,000 annually. Click here to see more sustainability initiatives and successes.