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What if Kingston…

LED Street Lights, Kingston, OntarioIn the four years that we’ve lived in our downtown home, my wife and I have contacted Utilities Kingston on numerous occasions to advise them of out of commission street lights.  For us, brightly lit sidewalks present a much more inviting path than dark and ominous ones, which is an obvious nod to pedestrian and personal safety. Furthermore, there’s nothing worse than encountering numerous street lights malfunctioning while traveling along a shadowy street.  Such scenes make you wonder if the neighborhood forgot to pay the utilities bill, while the street and the city come off looking a bit shabby to visitors.  Thankfully, each and every time we’ve advised Utilities Kingston of a broken light or bulb in need of replacement, corrective action was eventually taken.

Admittedly, street lights aren’t the most exciting topic of conversation, but in recent years there have been numerous advances in lighting technologies such as light emitting diodes (LEDs), which are now being used in cities such as Toronto, Edmonton, Oakville and even Kingston.  Earlier this month, Mayor Gerretsen expressed his fondness for new LED fixtures that were installed along Highway 15, while he suggested that widespread use of LED streetlights might be a good move for the Limestone City.  This got us thinking:  what if Kingston were to install energy efficient LEDs in all city street lights?

The capital cost of transitioning to LED lighting is rather steep, so much so that it is probably the biggest hurdle to getting a project of this magnitude off the ground.  However, once those LEDs start glowing, their increased efficiency and longevity start to rack up serious savings.  In the case of Anchorage, Alaska, a city that faces 85 days a year with less than 8 hours of daylight, costs associated with keeping the lights on were an obvious target for reduction.  After studying the options, the city concluded that:

LED fixtures are expected to use 50% less energy than current streetlights, which could save the city $360,000 per year at the current energy prices. The cost of the project is 2.2 million dollars. The LED fixtures, based on performance-leading Cree XLamp(r) LEDs, typically last up to seven times longer than high-pressure sodium fixtures, allowing Anchorage to better utilize maintenance resources. And the quality of light should also be better, though people will need to get used to it at first.

Mayor Gerretsen’s initial estimate is that the City of Kingston could save as much as $400,000 per year with LED streetlights.  But that number obviously does not take into account the initial cost associated with purchasing new LED streetlights, therefore we would have to wait a number of years (approximately 5) before realizing any savings.  If a citywide retrofit of street lights is eventually approved, would it be better for Utilities Kingston to wait for the current fixtures to die out, or take them all down to convert whole blocks to LEDs  in one fell swoop?  How large will the backlash be to LED bulbs, which present a bright white wash of light in comparison to traditional bulbs, which tend to have a warm, yellowish glow?

Kingston continues to make small and big strides towards sustainability and protecting the local environment.  From our organic recycling program to the new one bag per household limit, LED lighting is simply the next logical step for a city that aspires to be the most sustainable in all of Canada.

Thanks to letscommunicate for today’s photo.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

4 thoughts on “What if Kingston…

  • August 28, 2012 at 10:27 am
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    i believe the best way to do it is in sections. It just would not look right if it was replaces as they burn out due to the colour and intensity of the light.

  • August 28, 2012 at 3:01 pm
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    I find LED lights to be so dim though; won't that make the downtown look darker, thus making your problem worse?
    I just spent all of last week in Kingston; a beautiful city for sure. I went out with friends one night to walk downtown, but we only walked a certain portion because the street seemed to get darker, so we turned around.

  • August 29, 2012 at 7:50 am
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    The quality of light needs to be considered. Cheaper is not always better,even if it is "Greener"".
    Do LED's illuminate the 'pot holes' ,debris,& irregularities of the surface as well as what we have now?
    Safety of pedestrians is paramount. One fall can change ones life and also costs in dollar terms.
    This idea needs much more investigation & research.

  • September 2, 2012 at 9:42 pm
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    Check out the lights on Inverness Crescent and Lochinvar in the Strathcona Park area – LED streetlights were just installed there.

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