Huntsville eyes converting street lights to LED’s; could save the city budget millions

Updated: May. 13, 2020 at 6:54 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - There are more than 23,000 street lights in Huntsville, and they’re up for a face-lift.

City leadership and Huntsville Utilities are weighing options to convert the bulbs to more energy efficient LED’s.

In April, Huntsville Utilities President Wes Kelly and President of LightSmart Energy Consulting George Woodbury presented their thoughts (at the 20:30 mark of the meeting) to the city council in the form of various financing and transition models.

The city currently spends $2,915,235 on its street lights annually. The exact cost of the transition would differ upon each plan.

Woodbury recommended a plan that would result in Huntsville purchasing the street light system from Huntsville Utilities, hiring the company and a private contractor to install the lights, and retaining the Huntsville Utilities for maintenance.

The plan would save the city $1,159,225.46 per year for the first 10 years, and then $1,986,812.46 for each year after.

Woodbury said the LED transition would pay for itself, and also comes with other benefits.

He said LED’s will make for brighter, safer roads.

“A green car really looks green, a red car really looks red, you can read license plates more easily, you can recognize features more easily, You can identify objects in the roadway more quickly,” he said.

The bulbs also designed to reduce light pollution, meaning more stars for the rocket city, part of the initial goal of the project.

Woodbury said the LED system could also serve as infrastructure for information transmission from the roads to city departments. He cited traffic counts, weather monitors and gun shot monitors as examples.

“The things you can do, it’s growing exponentially. It’s sort of like a flip phone, now look at what we have. We are kind of at the flip phone stage, and it’s going up dramatically," he said.

City spokeswoman Kelly Schrimsher said in an email the city and Huntsville Utilities are working to develop a potential pilot project for 2021.

Huntsville Utilities expects to lose revenue over the switch to LED’s, however it’s working with the city on an arrangement that all parties can move forward on.

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