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Richmond DPU beginning project to replace 7,500 streetlights with LEDs, focusing on southside

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) will replace the present use of standard high-pressure sodium vapor streetlights after a successful pilot project which tested the newer technology. LED lights are up to 80% more efficient than other lighting sources and use far less energy, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Trevor Dickerson

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The City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities is embarking on converting 7,500 streetlight fixtures to LED lighting, meeting sustainability, safety, and security needs. Streetlights are an important factor in public safety and quality of life, providing lighting for both residential and commercial uses.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) will replace the present use of standard high-pressure sodium vapor streetlights after a successful pilot project which tested the newer technology. LED lights are up to 80% more efficient than other lighting sources and use far less energy, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“I am proud that the street lighting conversion project is moving forward. At a time where environmental impacts of our actions are felt more than ever, this project ties into the goals and roadmap laid out in my RVAgreen 2050 initiative,” said Mayor Levar Stoney.

When the city’s streetlights were first installed in 1845, they were powered by coal gas. Over the years as the lighting source technology changed, the city has kept up with those changes in its street lighting network. This LED conversion of the 7,500 fixtures is occurring over the next two fiscal years. The majority of these replacements will take place along the roadways in the city’s southside. Replacements are currently in progress along the Jefferson Davis Highway corridor.

A spokeswoman for the department tells RVAHub the conversion of all streetlights in the City of Richmond will take years unless more funding is provided. In total, there are over 37,000 streetlights within the city limits.

The existing fixtures use standard High-Pressure Sodium Vapor (HPSV) lamps with a warmer color temperature (yellow light). The new LED fixtures will have a cooler color temperature (moonlight color), which will enhance visibility and provide better color rendering. The LED fixtures will also provide better efficiency, reliability, and maintainability.

DPU director Calvin D. Farr, Jr. notes, “Not only is this project great for sustainability and public safety, but it is also important in maintaining our distribution networks and protecting public investments. By converting the lighting source technology, we are able to realize great cost savings.”

The projected useful life of the LED lighting is 20 years per fixture, compared to an average of five years for the current lighting technology used in the city. Although the initial cost per fixture of the current lighting technology is $240 compared to $440 for the LED fixtures, the increase in useful life per fixture of the LED technology will result in a 54% cost savings for the city. The cost savings will be realized by a reduced replacement rate for the LED fixtures, an estimated 40% reduction in energy costs as well as reduced maintenance costs.

The city underwent a multi-faceted pilot project in 2018 testing and evaluating the technology on existing infrastructure to determine its feasibility and needed upgrades. The pilot focused on six areas and included the installation of three different style fixtures to assess the new lighting technology. Those six areas were Jefferson Davis Highway, Brook Road, Forest Hill Avenue, New Kent Avenue, Boston Avenue Alley, and Wentbridge Road Alley.

The pilot project resulted in a design reference with specifications on acceptable lighting source parameters and range of lumens output acceptable for both roadways and alleys as well as proper electrical characteristics for the distribution grid.

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.