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Capitol Hill test could lead to ‘green’ streetlights across Seattle

Have you noticed a different glow at the intersection of 10th Ave E and Aloha? It’s hard to miss — the streetlights give off a crisp, white light that’s quite a different feel than the dingy orange sodium haze you normally see in Seattle.

The intersection, Seattle City Light tells CHS, is part of a just-started pilot project to study LED lighting technology as a streetlight alternative in Seattle. If the lights provide the expected reduction in energy use — and do their job of illuminating dark city streets — we could see this white glow across Seattle. From City Light:

We’re starting a pilot project in Capitol Hill and South Park to gauge the effectiveness and energy savings of LEDs compared to our current street lighting.  We will be doing cost analysis as we gather the data.

These areas were picked to give us different lighting situations from which to retrieve data.

LEDs have the potential to lower energy use and maintenance costs, but we want to see how they work in the field before making any decisions.  Our hope is that they will align closely with our overall conservation goals as captured in our Five Year Conservation Action Plan.  However, any additional efforts to expand the LED project will depend on available budgets.

The City Light spokesperson said they will provide more information soon about how to provide feedback on color, glare or any other issues about the lights but that CHS is a little ahead of them in getting the word out. We try.

Of course, all this nice lighting and energy savings won’t add up to much if the city continues to have such a hard time keeping streetlights lit on Capitol Hill. The West Seattle Blog reports that the city has a massive backlog of reported streetlight outages with a wait time of more than 30 days for the typical burned out streetlight to be replaced.

UPDATE: The City Light spokesperson just left voicemail. He took issue with my characterization of the backlog as ‘massive.’ Only 4% of city streetlights are out, he said. OK. Not massive. Big.

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12 thoughts on “Capitol Hill test could lead to ‘green’ streetlights across Seattle

  1. i literally was thinking about this while passing through the area last night and wondered if chs had posted / would post something on it. thanks for the info.

  2. I rather prefer the glow of white LEDs to the weird orange streetlights that flicker on and off. It reminds me of unusually bright moonlight; I like it!

  3. this idea was tested in a parking garage a few years back, replacing the sodium lighting with led and it proved:

    1) to use less electricity than sodium lighting
    2) the whiter light gave people a feeling of confidence and safety versus the orange glow of sodium lamps
    3) had a longer useful life (so would solve the issue of having to replace lighting as often as is currently needed)

    i’m trying to get my building start replacing our garage lighting with led technology. hopefully one day the price will come down enough to use in all the lights in my home.

  4. Yeah, LED’s use fractions of the amount of electricity of a standard bulb. I don’t know how much more these street lights bulbs (adapter too?) cost than a standard street light bulb, but I bet over time the savings between
    a) labor to replace each bulb half as often
    b) electricity

    will save compared to the increased price.

  5. I live on 10th about a block from these lights and noticed them immediately because it’s bright as daylight on that corner now. My bedroom window, unfortunately, faces the street and, despite the fact that I’m moving to the south side of the hill soon, I would hate to try to fall asleep if those lights were right in front of my house (I pity the fool who moves into my room in a month and a half). Anyway, it got me to thinking that those lights are so bright that they could save even more energy by using less lights in more strategic positions, which would use less power and create less light-pollution. Yeah?

  6. Dear Mike,

    Thank you for your comment. Please send notify me directly which lights are intrusive to you. This is a pilot and the use of LED’s is just beginning to emerge in Seattle and we need all the feedback we can about how the whiteness of the light is perceived.

    Thank you, Vicki Marsten
    Seattle City Light

  7. Where do City Light get this 4% figure? The public are repeatedly told that City Light does not inspect lights, but relies on reports of outages they receive (which, incidentally, require a “pole number” from a label that is frequently missing from poles). Is 4% is an estimate of the total percentage of lights that are out, or the percentage of total lights that have been *reported* as being out?

    The WSB story says City Light replaces 1/4 of the city’s street light bulbs — 21,000 — each year. That’s about 57.5 per day, so this 3,500 is a backlog of two months. I’d call that massive.

    This is a public safety issue. City Light is leaving inoperable street lights sit dark for *at least* two months at a time — the period is likely much larger when you account for the time they sit dark before being reported as such.

  8. I’m not sure how long it “should” take to get a Seattle city street light replaced since I’ve never had to report one up until now. My current experience has been this: reported the “one” street light on our block in Montlake 2 days after failure using the Seattle City Light web report form. I got a canned email back stating that my request had been received and that it could take several months to get a replacement bulb.

    This is a block that is completely dark and used regularly by students and faculty who walk home from U. of WA. We already had one car break in with broken glass all over the street. I try to keep our front yard garden light on which helps light the sidewalk halfway into the block.

    Add us to the “4%” that are waiting….

  9. We just had these installed in our neighborhood in the last month. One word: AWFUL.
    They do kind of look like moonlight, except the kind you get on the soccer pitch at Green Lake when you’re playing at 10pm–far too bright for a neighborhood that isn’t ridden with crime. Oh, and moonlight–I keep looking out the window for the ultra-bright moon that must surely be out there. uh. except it’s just this awful new streetlight.
    Though I never liked the color rendering of sodium lights I never much cared ’cause it is, you know–night time. Now all I get is these streak of light across my retinas when I accidentally look anywhere near the streetlights.
    Bring back the sodiums, please.