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Covington seeks funding for LED lights

The city of Covington is hoping for help in providing a brighter, cheaper glow to the city.

In step with multiple other cities in the state, Covington is hoping to replace hundreds of its street lights with more energy efficient light-emitting diode lights. The problem is upfront cost — an estimated $144,000,

Public Works Director Don Vondran said the city would like to swap between 290 and 336 of the 491 bulbs lighting the city. The lights in question are on green fiber glass poles, with cobra heads and mast arms. These lights were installed by Intolight, a division of Puget Sound Energy. Intolight is offering a rebate of $19,000 to convert to LED, leaving a net installation cost of $125,000.

The annual cost for maintenance and power of the current bulbs is $55,000, while the LED’s would be about $41,000. The $14,000 in annual savings would take about nine years to pay for itself.

That’s apparently not fast enough.

“I don’t see us moving forward without the funds,” Vondran said. “I don’t know where the money would come from.”

Besides the potential cost savings, there are multiple benefits to LED lights: a whiter, brighter and cleaner glow; better color distinction at night; cutting electricity use; greater uniformity of light on the ground; and they last longer, reducing maintenance costs.

The current lights have not been a cause of complaint for Covington residents, Vondran said.

“It’s more about saving annual funds,” Vondran said.

The lights needing conversion vary in age — from just a couple years to at least 10. The heads would not be touched only the light itself. Vondran said the city will apply for a Department of Commerce grant that would cover a larger chunk of the costs. Grant applications are not due until mid-September.

Ray Lane, Puget Sound Energy Spokesman, said the early adopters of the upgrade to LED street lights include Des Moines, Buckley, Woodinville and Sedro-Woolley.

“Many of PSE’s municipal customers are currently discussing system-wide LED upgrades,” Lane said in an email.

The city of Renton underwent a much larger streetlight conversion in August, changing about 3,865 bulbs, which cost about $4.3 million. Renton funded the replacements with a $500,000 grant from the Department of Commerce, $589,000 from Puget Sound Energy and $3.2 million from a 15-year low interest Qualified Energy Conservation Bond.

Preeti Shridhar, Deputy Public Affairs Administrator for the city of Renton, said anecdotal feedback from the public has been nothing but positive.

“What we’ve heard is people really like the lights,” she said. “The whole place lights up… From a community perspective this has been a wonderful program.”

Vondran said he is hopeful for good news on the grant front, because it is expensive to pay for the current street lights.

“It would be great to save $15,000 a year,” Vondran said. “It doesn’t seem like a lot but it does add up.”

 

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