Southampton Town is saving money and the environment with its LED lighting project.
The roughly one-year, $1.9 million endeavor includes replacing 2,708 streetlights and installing 70 security cameras throughout town. Additional lighting was also installed at seven Southampton beaches to improve safety. The municipality is one of the first to take part in the Smart Street Lighting NY program under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Reforming the Energy Vision,” which includes the goal of a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
“Financially, we’ll be way ahead of a quarter of a million dollars in savings,” Supervisor Jay Schniederman said. “Why would any municipality not do this?”
The project is being financed by the New York Power Authority. The town will repay that money over eight years The town also received state grants to cover the cost of increasing the number of streetlights along a 1.3-mile stretch of Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton. Once the project is completed the town expects to save about $250,000 in electricity costs.
“As soon as final reconciliation happens, the town will make monthly payments to NYPA,” said NYPA Energy Manager Jeff Laino. “The monthly cost savings is greater than the monthly loan payment to NYPA, making the town $28,000 cash-flow positive. The town will be paying less in labor too, because there will be less maintenance of light fixtures, which the town is also deciding to do itself.”
Southampton’s project was one of the very first street lighting projects under the new state program, and the first to implement “smart” technology. The fixtures can be controlled through a smartphone app that can be used to adjust brightness, and it includes an asset management system that automatically informs the town when a light is out. This also reduces maintenance costs.
According to NYPA Project Manager Paul Parthemore, the lights are set to dim 50 percent between 11 PM and 5 AM, except on major highways. Because the town will have a small stock of backup lights, old ones can be replaced immediately and sent back to Philips, the manufacturer, for replacement if they fail before their 10-year warranty expires.
Town Parks Director Kristen Doulos said the town was never able to keep a true inventory of backup bulbs before, pointing out that the new system is much more efficient. She added the town will also be credited a to-be-determined amount for the stock of bulbs that are not used.
Town Comptroller Len Marchese said there will be even more savings, since actual wattage usage is typically less than the maximum wattage of the bulbs. The town is working on getting Philips to send reports to the state so the town can get credited for any upcharges, since there will be reduced energy consumption. “The State Public Service Commission needs to accept this methodology,” Marchese said. “The actual reports to PSEG will be less with the dimmers.”
According to the NYPA representatives, the light distribution is focused in one direction, minimizing wasted energy. The lifespan is estimated between 60,000 and 80,000 hours for the streetlights, which can be dimmed down to 10 percent of their total wattage. This is compared to an estimated 20,000-40,000 hours with preexisting streetlights. Since the lights in the fixtures, which range in power, are almost never running at full capacity, Parthemore suggested eventually bumping up usage from 50 to 75 percent in the evening through morning hours to maintain the same brightness as the lights grow older.
Schneiderman pointed out even grander paybacks from this project. “It’s lower cost and there are less greenhouse gas emissions,” Schneiderman said. “The biggest benefit… the greatest benefit… is how little energy they use.”