LED light installation illuminates city

Maggie Soun/Staff

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The city has now replaced about 30 percent of its old streetlights with more cost- and energy-effective LED lights as part of an ongoing initiative.

City officials began installing LED lights as part of a pilot project in 2012.

As of Friday, 2,599 of about 8,000 streetlights have been replaced, said city spokesperson Matthai Chakko. These include more than 100 at the Berkeley Marina and along Telegraph Avenue, according to the Department of Public Works.

Dan Hano, a designer at McCutcheon Construction, said using LED lights compared to using other types of lights has the advantage of being environmentally friendly in addition to saving money. But, he said, some have been more reluctant to switch over to LED lighting because of the higher upfront cost.

Additionally, some Berkeley residents expressed unhappiness with the implementation of the new streetlights. The city has received a total of 80 complaints from people about the lights, Chakko said. He said most of the complaints concern the color of the lights, which have a less yellow hue than the old ones, and the worry that the new lamps have such a broad range that they shed unwanted light on people’s property.

“We can’t do much about the color of the light, but we may be able to do something about the spread of light. Not every utility pole is perfectly straight so we can go to every site to try to fix it to stop the spread of light (onto property),” Chakko said. “It may just take some time for folks to adjust to the new lights.”

According to Chakko, the LED lights use 65 to 80 percent less energy and last about a decade longer than the old lights. The old streetlights caused more than 1,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emission, or approximately 13 percent of total emissions for the city. This percentage would be cut in half with the new installations.

The city took out a $3 million loan from the California Energy Commission to replace the old streetlights with the LED ones, Chakko said. The loan has a 1 percent interest rate, which the city expects to pay back over 10 years. They expect to be able to do so with the $400,000 per year in energy costs saved by the new lights. In addition, the city will receive $650,000 in rebates from PG&E energy saving programs.

The program will propel forward Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions 33 percent from 2000 emission levels by 2020 and 80 percent from 2000 emission levels by 2050.

The campus is also currently replacing its lighting fixtures with more energy-efficient ones as part of a UC-wide goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Nico Correia is the lead city reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @nicolocorreia.