http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2013/01/25/brighter-safer-streets-ahead


Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - January 25, 2013

Brighter, safer streets ahead

Within the next month or two, Pleasanton's energy and sustainability manager Laura Ryan will have obtained sufficient low-interest loans and other financial funding to win the City Council's approval for one of her most ambitious projects ever: the installation of 7,300 street lights and numerous park lights that will not only make our roadways and neighborhoods brighter at night but also save our city millions of dollars in future electric bills. The project is one of many Ryan and her boss Daniel Smith, director of operations services, have advanced in recent months at the council's direction in a long-term commitment to financial sustainability and a reduction in community-wide greenhouse gas. Their success has made Pleasanton a recognized leader among municipal and state climate action plans to reduce emissions and clean up California's air.

Recently, Smith's department completed a solar energy upgrade program, using $260,000 the council authorized for rebates to those who installed solar roof panels. A total of 261 homeowners and a number of businesses took advantage of the offer and are now nearly free of the PG&E electric grid, gaining all the electricity they need from sunlight. A few have also purchased electric-powered automobiles, which means that sunpower is also charging those cars for gasoline-free driving. With the capital costs behind them, it's a win-win situation both for these residents and PG&E, which is burning that much less carbon-producing fossil fuel to feed those electric meters.

The street light program is even a bigger win. The new LED retrofit project will give the city an estimated 60% reduction in its electric bills while also reducing greenhouse gases by approximately 1,556 metric tons per year. Given these savings, it's no surprise that city officials are encouraging Ryan and Smith to move forward on obtaining the special 1% fixed interest loans available for these kinds of municipal projects. Ryan calls these street light upgrades "the frosting on the cake" as the city moves toward meeting its goal for greater energy efficiencies.

There's another advantage in replacing the high pressure sodium vapor lights now in use. Those fixtures have a three- to five-year life span. The light-emitting diodes (LED) units will last 12 to 24 years, which means considerably less need for city crews to replace them. They also provide a "truer" light, which the cities of San Jose and Los Angeles, where they've been installed, have found to significantly reduce nighttime crime on city streets.

The report proposing the street light conversion plan is expected to go before the council for approval in March. With the OK and the financing in place, the six-month-long project should be completed by fall, perhaps in time to make the streets brighter and safer for Halloween.

Comments

Posted by D. Johns, a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Laura Ryan ......
Always on the cutting edge! Good work!


Posted by Beth , a resident of Laguna Vista
on Jan 30, 2013 at 9:43 am

While i am all for more efficient and reducing energy consumption, do we really need brighter? Just more light pollution and less stars. Night is supposed to be dark. Less carbon foot print, but a brighter foot print on the night sky....


Posted by HotSam, a resident of Southeast Pleasanton
on Jan 30, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Can we opt out of this thing? I like the sodium vapor lights just fine and there's no crime on our street. LED streetlights are blindingly bright - too bright, in my opinion.


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Jan 30, 2013 at 7:20 pm

If you wanna see stars, bump into a tree!


Posted by Roger Gathers, a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 30, 2013 at 8:29 pm

The key question is not so much how bright the lights are, but where does the light go. Light that just escapes upward to the sky is a nuisance as well as a waste of energy. for those of us who like to do amateur astronomy, including school star parties for students the scattered light from the sky makes it hard to find interesting things for the students to look at. There are plenty of designs that direct the light downward instead of letting a lot of it illuminate the sky.


Posted by Been There, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2013 at 10:19 pm

I'm not sure we need more street lights. It's bright enough already. Too much lighting is not necessarily helpful and, frankly, does not look very good.

7300 street lights? And we need loans for this?


Posted by Sam, a resident of Oak Hill
on Jan 31, 2013 at 8:13 am

From my memories of looking out the windows of airplanes flying at night over cities and towns, I don't recall street lighting as being a big source of light as viewed from above. The streetlights aren't all that bright and are directed downwards so that the light has to bounce off the dark pavement in order to get to the sky. The bright lights that I noticed were from car headlights, office lights, and storefront lighting and brightly lit signs.

As for LED streetlights, they're now being used at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. They haven't yet completely switched over so one can see some sodium arc streetlights and LED streetlights in close proximity. The LED's do appear to be a little bit brighter and their light is much whiter than the dull yellow of the sodium arc lights.


Posted by Old Salt, a resident of Valley Trails
on Feb 1, 2013 at 11:43 am

Several years ago ALL of the street lights in Valley Trails were replaced with "Quaint", and energy efficient lights. Now they are going to be replaced, at what cost. Someone needs to have their priorities examined.