Citywide LED streetlight conversion could lead to thousands in savings

Citywide LED streetlight conversion could lead to thousands in savings

WOONSOCKET – By this time next year, residents should begin to notice brighter, more energy-efficient LED streetlights going up around the city.

What’s less noticeable but equally important to city officials is the thousands in potential savings the lights could bring the city each year.

Woonsocket recently joined the towns of Smithfield and Lincoln in preparing a joint request for proposals for a full LED streetlight conversion, including new fixtures, installation and the first year of maintenance. According to City Councilor John Ward, that RFP is in the process of being finalized and should go out in late November or early December, with installation of the new lights due to start next spring.

“Hopefully by next year, we will all have new streetlights,” he said.

The process began about a year-and-a-half ago, when several communities throughout the state started discussing issuing a joint RFP for new streetlights in order to obtain bulk pricing. At the time, Johnston was in a court dispute with the state over maintenance of streetlights on state-owned roads. The legal battle delayed the efforts of other communities as all eyes watched to see if the state would agree to pay the cost of lighting state-owned roads.

When that agreement came last year, the process picked up again with the understanding that once the conversion is complete, the state will pay the cost of maintaining lights on state-owned roads. According to Ward, Woonsocket joined the effort about three months ago after Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt met with representatives of other communities also considering LED conversion. Woonsocket, Smithfield and Lincoln have joined together to submit one RFP, while a group of towns in the southern portion of the state will submit a second one.

“Once we buy up the streetlights and get them on the poles, the benefit of the electricity costs will be enough to pay off the acquisition costs over a period of time, probably four to six years,” he said.

Though Ward said he didn’t know the exact potential savings, the amount, he said, could be as high as 30 to 50 percent off current energy bills. In Smithfield, a town that has approximately half as many streetlights as Woonsocket, Town Engineer Kevin Cleary said he expects to save around $300,000 per year after paying off the initial cost of the lights.

In addition to the energy cost savings, the new arrangement with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation means the state will now be footing a portion of the bill.

“It will become simply a matter of identifying the fixtures that are on each of the state roads that run through a community. For Woonsocket, that would be (Route) 114, 126 down Social Street, 122, 104,” said Ward.

National Grid also offers incentives for conversion to LED lighting that could lead to further savings.

Unlike in the past, when National Grid owned the light fixtures and billed the city for services, the new lights will be owned by the city. After the first year, said Ward, the city will have to go out to bid for maintenance of the fixtures.

Several other towns around Rhode Island, including North Smithfield and Cumberland, have already completed LED conversions. Cumberland’s conversion, completed last year, is expected to save the town about $350,000 annually, while North Smithfield’s cut the town’s energy costs by about 40 percent.

Valley Breeze Staff Writer Jacquelyn Moorehead contributed to this story.