LED street lights will have to wait

A two-year Maple Ridge pilot project examined the costs and benefits of 24 new LED street lights.

The district tried LED lights over two years.

The district tried LED lights over two years.

It doesn’t yet pay to replace old high-pressure sodium street lights with high efficient light-emitting diode fixtures, although the numbers are changing fast.

A two-year Maple Ridge pilot project examined the costs and benefits of 24 new LED street lights installed at the corner of Abernethy Way and 224th Street. It found that the lights would actually cost the district $23,894 more over 20 years than the orange sodium lights.

That’s because the $48,000 capital cost of the LEDs far exceeded the $4,800 cost of the old high-pressure models.

The cost-benefit of LED lights is not quite there yet, but it’s getting close, public works general manager Frank Quinn told council.

And that doesn’t mean Maple Ridge is giving up on the new technology. LED lights continue to drop in price, to less than half of what they were two years ago.

The district will monitor the trends as the technology improves and prices drop, while it will encourage B.C. Hydro to retrofit its own street lights – which make up about a third of those in Maple Ridge.

Two recommended projects would be a test LED streetlight project in a neighbourhood area, possibly with participation from a business partner, as well as test retrofitting of existing street lights.

When compared to the old HPS lights, which use 188 watts of electricity, the new LED use only 129 watts. Maple Ridge pays $3.52 a month for the electricity used by each street light.

The pilot project found that the 24 LED street lights on Abernethy Way would save Maple Ridge $9,366 in power costs over 20 years.

However, when a manufacturer’s discount and a grant Maple Ridge received are figured into the analysis, the district would save $16,000 over two decades.

Coun. Mike Morden asked if cellphone companies could pay for LED light fixtures, if combined with cell towers.

And what about solar-powered street lights, if such technology exists?

But sustainability manager Laura Benson said LED lights are so efficient they wouldn’t need solar power.

Research technician Alexandra Tudose said in a report that LED lights will be mandatory in Nova Scotia by 2019 because of the high cost of electricity in that province.