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Silver Valley suburb will be testing ground for LED lights

Switching to cleaner, cheaper LED street lights still isn’t worth the cost, but the District of Maple Ridge wants to be ready if or when the price does come down.

It plans on doing that by fitting a new Silver Valley suburb, Nelson Peaks, with 23 new decorative poles that will use Philips LED lights.

At $1,000 each, the cost to the district could have been $23,000, but a $11,000 contribution from Portrait Homes and $12,000 from the carbon tax rebate funds will ensure the project doesn’t affect the district’s budget.

“At the present time, it’s pretty hard to make a case for it [switching to LED],” said Laura Benson, sustainability manager with the district.

But LED technology is constantly dropping in price and at some point it will be worth junking the old high-pressure sodium lights and replacing them with LEDs, which produce the same light with only 10 per cent of the power.

According to projections, it will take the district 14 years to save in power what it spent on the new lights in Nelson Peaks. The lights last about 15 years, making it a break-even case, said Benson.

The lights will be installed on decorative poles beginning this June in the suburb near 136th Avenue.

“We’ll look for citizen feedback,” Benson said. “It should be cheaper to maintain them. It’s way more light for the energy it draws.”

She added the LEDs don’t have ballasts in them, so those don’t have to be replaced, but the glass has to be cleaned.

Maple Ridge experimented with LED street lights at Abernethy Way and 224th Street a few years ago, when it installed 24 “cobra” lights that curve over the road, at a discounted cost of $200 per pole.

Over the 20 year life of the lights, the district expects to save $16,000 in power.

However, the district is also eyeing a larger project that could save more money and see more brighter LEDs on district streets.

B.C. Hydro has said it’s interested in partnering with the district in switching over the old high-pressure sodium lights on its poles. Converting to cheaper LEDs would save the district money because it pays BC Hydro for the power used for the lights.

Of the 5,000 street lights throughout the district, B.C. Hydro owns about 1,650.

“They’re trying to curb demand for energy,” Benson pointed out. “It would make sense for them to start dealing with their own poles.”

However, the district also has to pay B.C. Hydro five times the usual electricity rates because maintenance costs are added in. As a result, Maple Ridge wants B.C. Hydro to divest itself of those poles so it can run its own.

“There is a potential for savings with LED for both, and we’re hoping to partner with B.C. Hydro to convert some of their poles to LED.”

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