Elgin planning to make all streetlights LED

A project to install LED streetlights in Elgin will save money and provide better and more environmentally friendly lighting, officials said.

Public Works Superintendent Aaron Neal said the $2.25 million or so investment would pay for itself in five to six years. "This is a win-win for the city," Neal told the city council Wednesday.

The city spends $900,000 to $1.1 million annually in electricity costs for its streetlights, which consume 30 percent to 80 percent more energy than LED lights, Neal said. Rough estimates show savings from LED lights could amount to $400,000 annually, Neal said.

LED lights would reduce maintenance costs - there are more than 1,500 calls per year about streetlights - and provide high-quality lighting with a clearer view of the road, Neal said.

LED lights can be programmed directionally to minimize impact on houses, and to turn on when pedestrians approach, Neal said. The public works department would work with police to assess the best lighting for various locations, he added.

Council members praised the initiative. "I believe that a community that is lit up is a safe community," Councilwoman Rose Martinez said.

Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger asked if LED lighting would be "harsh or glaring."

Neal said Elgin uses metal-halide lights that produce a white light, so the transition to LED lighting wouldn't be drastic. Cities such as Chicago use high-pressure sodium lights that cast an yellow-orange glow, he added.

Elgin plans to take advantage of ComEd's energy efficiency program, which pays $0.70 for each watt reduced with LED replacement, Neal said. For example, that would be $144.90 for converting a 250-watt light - producing 295 watts including the ballast - into an 88-watt LED light, ComEd data shows. It's not clear how much money Elgin would receive because there's no inventory of the varying wattages of city streetlights, Neal said.

The proposed 2019 budget includes $1.25 million for LED lights, and an additional $1 million is budgeted through 2021.

Pending budget approval, Neal said he plans to seek requests for proposals from vendors by late January. The goal is to find a vendor to perform a streetlight inventory, supply the LED lights and install them, hopefully starting in June or July, he said.

One such vendor, Rod Young of The Will Group based in Wheaton, gave a presentation about LED lights Wednesday. A final decision will be made after bids are received, city officials said.

Elgin has about 450 LED streetlights installed in recent years, Neal said. Overall, the city owns about 6,500 streetlights, and another 6,500 or so belong to ComEd, which also plans to replace its lights with LED and for which the city also pays for electricity, Neal said.

Streetlights on private streets would not be affected by the program.

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