Let there be light, that’s less expensive, better for the environment, and doesn’t harsh the mellow of Ucluelet’s sky.
Ucluelet’s municipal council recently voted to move ahead with a three-year plan to retrofit the district’s existing streetlights with light emitting diode (LED) technology.
The work will kick off in 2016 and cost about $16,333 a year for three years—roughly $50,000 total—according to a report submitted by Ucluelet’s lead planner John Towgood.
The district owns 179 of the roughly 350 streetlights in Ucluelet, BC Hydro owns 142 and local strata subdivisions own about 40. A significant majority of these lights currently run on high pressure sodium (HPS) technology.
“The main driver for the conversion is immediate utilities and maintenance cost reduction, environmental benefits and future cost avoidance associated with projected utility rate increases,” Towgood wrote.
“LED street lighting is becoming the standard of many if not most municipalities.”
Towgood estimated that by converting to LED, the district would knock 53 per cent off its forecasted annual energy costs and another 48 per cent off its annual maintenance costs.
He suggested the district would celebrate $106,369 of savings over 15 years and would likely recover its initial $50,000 investment within five years.
He added LED lighting would bring better visibility to nighttime pedestrians and motorists, reduce Ucluelet’s carbon footprint, and nix the unwanted glow HPS streetlights are putting in Ucluelet’s sky.
“It should be noted that these existing HPS streetlights produce significant glare and ‘up’ light which is a major contribution to sky glow as identified by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA),” Towgood wrote.
“LED luminaires are certified by the (IDA) as dark sky friendly and…will enhance Ucluelet’s night sky viewing.”
Along with retrofitting its current lights, Ucluelet will also put legislation in place to ensure LED lighting is used in all future developments.
Coun. Mayco Noel asked if BC Hydro was on board with converting their 142 HPS street lights to LED.
Towgood responded that Hydro has no current plan to do so and his report suggested this could create patches of mixed lighting in town.
“The mix of BC Hydro’s HPS street lighting and the proposed LED lighting may create areas with distinctly different lighting charqacteristics,” he wrote.
“These different lighting characteristics or ‘tiger strips’ can cause driving difficulties. An area-by-area retrofit opposed to a fixture-by-fixture replacement can mitigate this effect.”
District CAO Andrew Yeates noted the district could take a proactive approach and replace Hydro’s HPS lights with LED technology.
Coun. Randy Oliwa expressed strong support for the switch.
“I’ve attended six UBCM’s (Union of BC Municipalities conventions) and LED lighting has been at every one,” he said.
“A lot of communities are absolutely adamently going this way. I think it’s time that we definitely need to do it.”
Oliwa asked if the district could make strata subdivisions switch their current HPS lighting to LED but Towgood responded the district does not have the authority to do so.
“They can do it on their own accord but it’s their equipment and their hydro,” Towgood said adding that under the proposed changes any new strata subdivisions would be required to install LED lighting.
Coun. Sally Mole liked the idea and noted reducing the community’s carbon footprint would lower Ucluelet’s annual carbon offset costs— Ucluelet spent about $3,500 on carbon credits in 2013—but she was unwilling to commit 2016 budget dollars a year early.
“I think I would have to vote against that just because, without having a look at what 2016 looks like financially, I’m not ready to commit to that,” she said.
“I love that idea and I think if we can secure it through grants, or something like that, that would be awesome…I’m really happy to look at it again when we move through the budget process.”
Coun. Mayco Noel agreed and added that it might be prudent for council to reach out to Hydro to gauge the company’s interest in replacing their lights simultaneously.
“I’d like to see it go to the next year’s budget and then reassess,” Noel said.
“It would be nice to see if Hydro would come up with maybe $10,000 to do their 142 lights at the same time…It would be neat to get that dialogue going with them.”
Oliwa suggested waiting for 2016’s budget talks would just delay the inevitable.
“I will vote for it in the budget of 2016 and I’ll vote for it today. I don’t see why we’re holding off,” he said.
Mayor Dianne St. Jacques and Coun. Marilyn McEwen agreed with Oliwa and these three votes of support outnumbered Mole and Noel’s votes in opposition.