New LED streetlights projected to save town millions

New LED streetlights projected to save town millions

Smithfield joining Lincoln and Woonsocket for bulk pricing

SMITHFIELD – This town can potentially save millions of dollars under a proposed new LED street lighting conversion and can save on equipment by jointly seeking bids with Lincoln and Woonsocket, says Town Engineer Kevin Cleary.

Cleary recommended the change during the Nov. 5 Town Council meeting, where the council unanimously agreed to send out a joint request for proposals with Lincoln and Woonsocket for the services, operation and maintenance of the town’s streetlights.

Cleary said making a joint effort with the other two towns, at National Grid’s suggestion, is the best way to get the services and equipment at reduced bulk pricing.

LED lights provide more direct lighting to streets, and produce less light scatter and pollution than regular lightbulbs.

Reviewing and selecting a winning bid will take time due to the various options, said Cleary.

“There is a tremendous opportunity to save large dollars here,” he told the council.

Over the life cycle of the new LED lights, which Cleary said is approximately 15 years, the town could save more than $5 million in operational and maintenance costs. Cleary estimated the annual savings to be around $300,000.

The engineer said the first-year costs of converting to new efficient streetlights are substantial, at approximately $592,000 to $765,000, yet every year after, the town will see cost savings on maintenance fees paid to National Grid. Cleary said the town sends two-thirds of its street lighting budget of $429,000 to National Grid each year.

After the conversion, the town would take on ownership and maintenance of lights on town roads, and the state would maintain ownership of those on state roads.

Future annual operations and maintenance costs are estimated to be between $75,000 and $81,000.

“It’s tremendous,” Cleary said.

In addition to the operations and maintenance savings, National Grid also offers incentives for conversion to LED lighting. Cleary said the town could expect anywhere from $93,000 to $175,000 in incentives.

Smithfield has an estimated 3,000 streetlights, similar to Lincoln, and Woonsocket has about twice as many as Smithfield. In a new approach to lighting, Smithfield mapped out the locations of every streetlight to check for redundancies in the system.

Cleary said mapping the location of each light will lead to the removal of about 20 to 25 percent of existing streetlights due to redundancy, further reducing energy costs.

Existing lights will be replaced with LED lights of similar wattage, and Cleary said unwanted glare or over-lighting will no longer be an issue.

This plan began more than two years ago, Cleary said, when other municipalities began switching to LED lighting.

Cleary said he expects the request for proposals to be returned early next spring before going through the “arduous process” of reviewing applicants. He said many technical factors go into the bids, and it will take time.

He said conversion should begin around next April and continue through November 2020.

While Smithfield is “a little late in the game” for streetlight conversion, the town has been able to learn from the pitfalls other communities experienced, gaining the best value.

“It just makes sense economically,” Cleary said.

Woonsocket City Councilor John Ward who is working with Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt and city administrators to bring LED lighting to Woonsocket, said he expects the request to go out in late November or early December.

“I’m glad it’s going and hopefully by next year we will all have new streetlights,” Ward said. The Valley Breeze reported last month about Lincoln making the move to convert to LED lights after waiting on a court decision in Johnston regarding the Rhode Island Department of Transportation paying for lighting on state roads.

Lincoln Town Administrator Joe Almond said that after RIDOT agreed to pay for lighting Johnston’s state roads, Lincoln entered a similar deal. After purchasing and converting lights to LED, Lincoln will pay to light only town roads.

Almond said jointly going out to bid for conversion and maintenance of the lighting could mean better prices for everyone.