CLIFTON PARK — The town of Clifton Park is moving forward with a plan to convert more than 600 streetlights to LED technology, saving the town several million dollars in electricity costs over the next 20 years.
Conversion work is expected to start shortly, after the state Public Service Commission approved the town’s agreements with National Grid and New York State Electric and Gas. Some lights on Clifton Country Road and the western end of Ushers Road have already been converted as part of a pilot program, and the rest are expected to be converted by the end of the summer.
While the initial cost to the town for buying the lights from the utilities will be $582,000, that should be paid off through savings within seven to ten years, town officials said.
“It is significant recurring savings each year going into the future. It has been a lot of work to get to this point,” said Town Supervisor Phil Barrett.
The new LED streetlights are identifiable due to the flat fixture as opposed to the round bulbs on the older lights, town officials said. The light emanating from the new fixtures is brighter and concentrated downward when compared with the current technology.
The town initiatived the plan in 2017, when it sought competitive proposals for a performance-based energy contract to replace existing lighting, using a state program that allows municipalities to purchase the streetlights within their borders from utility companies, then install LED lights on them.
In March 2018, the Town Board made the decision to buy more than 600 streetlights from the two utility companies that each serve parts of the town, and selected Siemens Inc. as the project contractor. Since that time, Siemens has completed an extensive field audit of all facilities within the town, part of which resulted in the town receiving a $25,000 rebate from National Grid for past overcharges.
Once the LED lights are installed, the town estimates it will reduce energy usage by 60-65%. The new lights will also include remote sensor systems that will allow “smart cities” applications to be installed on them in the future, and the technology will allow lights to be controlled — brightened and dimmed — for a special event or emergency.
While Barrett said Clifton Park was among the first to initiate action, he expects most municipalities in the state will eventually switch to LED streetlights. LEDs — light-emitting diodes — are much more efficient than other lighting technologies.
“The streetlight acquisition and conversion initiative is another example of Clifton Park pursuing opportunities to reduce energy usage, save money and operate more efficiently,” Barrett said. “The town will save several million dollars over 20 years through this initiative. A great deal of time and effort was required to arrive at this phase of the project and the town will benefit for decades into the future.”
While Clifton Park is one of the latest, more than two dozen other municipalities have also been approved for LED conversion contracts, according to informaton from the Public Service Commission. Among the others are the village of Scotia and city of Gloversville, as well as the city of Albany. Separately, Schenectady has switched to LED lighting as part of its “Smart Cities” initiative, but under an initiative in which National Grid continues to own the lights.
To date, the PSC has approved the sale of more than 76,000 streetlights to 39 municipalities, according to PSC officials. The total value of these streetlights is estimated at more than $51.5 million. More are pending, according to a PSC spokesman.
“In 2015 Governor Cuomo signed legislation amending the Public Service Law to establish procedures to facilitate the transfer of ownership of complete street lighting systems to municipalities or other government entities,” the PSC said in a statement on Tuesday. “With the change in ownership, municipalities take control of street lighting and have the option to install state-of-the-art, energy efficient lights and new technologies to lower costs to taxpayers and protect the environment by reducing energy consumption.”
The town previously switched to LED lighting for town parks, the ice arena and many indoor locations, Barrett said.