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New York Government Agencies Collaborate on LED Streetlight Installations

2016-07-13

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) announced that a section of Central Avenue in Colonie, Albany County, will get new LED street lights to enhance visibility and safety, as well as reduce energy costs.

The new lighting, which will be installed between Wolf Road and Reber Street, is part of a demonstration project bringing together industry, government agencies, not-for-profits and academic organizations to develop a systematic strategy to transition street lights to energy-saving LED lighting throughout New York State. The project supports Governor Andrew Cuomo's Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy by helping municipalities reduce their energy use.

"The lessons from this work will make New York's roads safer and street lighting more energy efficient," said NYSERDA President and CEO John Rhodes. "NYSERDA's partnership with DOT advances Governor Cuomo's vision for developing safe and sustainable communities."

NYSDOT Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll said, "Safety is our top priority, and this new lighting is one more way to make it safer and easier for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists to travel Central Avenue. Governor Cuomo knows the importance of a sound transportation system and, working with our partners at NYSERDA and others, we are enhancing traffic safety and mobility across the state."

LED installations are scheduled to start this fall on the US $300,000 project, which is being supported by NYSDOT State Planning and Research funds.Once completed, the average light level along this section of the street will increase by about 35 to 40%, enhancing safety by making pedestrians more visible. Based on an earlier NYSDOT study, the new lights could enable the Village and Town of Colonie to decrease their energy use by approximately 30,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) annually, reducing energy costs by approximately $4,500 a year.

Town of Colonie Supervisor Paula A. Mahan said, "This project is a win-win for everyone. It will greatly enhance DOT and the town's ongoing efforts to enhance pedestrian safety along Route 5. It will also reduce energy costs for both the town and village of Colonie, while furthering NYSERDA's mission of helping municipalities convert to LED streetlights. I commend NYSERDA and DOT for their vision and leadership on a very forward-looking and vital project."

To alleviate the potential issue of LED street lights that are too bright, the partners will test the LED lights before selecting them and properly design the height and offset into the street. They will also conduct surveys with the public after installation and share the results with other municipalities in New York State and beyond.

In addition to making this stretch of road safer, the project will result in a comprehensive technical report that will document how local and state agencies and utilities can best coordinate to convert their existing roadway lighting to LED lighting. This comprehensive report will be built upon the experience and knowledge gained from the design and installation of the lighting system, as well as public input on the effectiveness of the new lighting.

The project is being led by the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which issued a report last June that found LED roadway lighting could achieve substantial energy savings for localities and improve the illumination quality. The Center will collaborate with National Grid, NYSDOT, Creighton Manning, the Town and Village of Colonie, the Capital District Transportation Committee and the University Transportation Research Center to complete the Central Avenue project, which is being co-managed by NYSERDA and NYSDOT.

John Bullough, the Lighting Research Center scientist directing the project said, "We know LED street lighting technology is ready for prime time, but there's still a lot to learn about the financial mechanisms that make LEDs feasible when municipalities pay to operate street lights that are owned by their electric utility. By bringing all of these entities together we hope to help New York State, its cities, towns and villages, and utilities take advantage of technologies that can improve safety while reducing environmental impacts."

In 2014, NYSDOT announced a series of pedestrian safety improvements, education efforts and enforcement actions along Central Avenue between the City of Albany and the City of Schenectady. The LED lights will complement those improvements.

Utilities and communities across the State own approximately 1.4 million municipal streetlights. Collectively, they could save as much as 524 gigawatt hours annually, the equivalent of powering approximately 74,000 homes, by replacing those lights with equivalent LEDs. The financial savings could add up to $95 million a year, including annual energy cost savings of $28 million and annual maintenance savings of $67 million. 

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