LED light project will illuminate Camas

City receives $500,000 Department of Commerce grant

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An upcoming project will shine new light on Camas.

The city will move forward on a $2.4 million lighting replacement project that when complete will have upgraded 3,100 city-owned traditional light bulbs with energy efficient light-emitting diode lights.

“Basically anything that fronts the street or lights the street is a city-owned light,” explained Public Works Director Steve Wall during discussions at the City Council’s annual planning conference Saturday.

Plans call for installation of the new lights to take place over the next year.

“As far as we know, we’re one of the only cities in the larger area around us that is looking at this type of full implementation for LED lights,” Wall said.

LED lights, which produce directional light and are dimmable, are energy-efficient, so they don’t have to be replaced as often as traditional light bulbs. This results in reduced maintenance costs.

“It’s just a good investment overall when you look at it from that standpoint,” Wall said.

A portion of the funding to support the project will come from a $500,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce.

It was announced in December that Camas was one of the 28 agencies that had made the cut to receive a portion of $8.6 million of energy efficiency and solar grants. The 2013 Legislature appropriated $25 million for the grants to higher education, local governments and state agencies.

“Moving to more energy-efficient publicly owned built buildings, and towards cleaner, renewable energy sources is good for the environment and good for our economy,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “These grants support (Gov. Jay Inslee’s) comprehensive climate action agenda and help spur growth and employment in our clean energy and energy efficiency sectors.”

The grants were awarded through a competitive process.

The remaining funding to support the Camas project will come from a $10.5 million limited tax general obligation bond, which was approved by the City Council in 2014. City leaders plan to use this funding mechanism for other projects as well.

Annual payments on the $1.89 million being financed through the bond for the LED project will be $127,500 per year for the next 21 years. Most of that could potentially be paid with the estimated annual energy savings of $91,500.

According to information provided by the city, in the first year following the installation of the LED lights, energy and maintenance savings are expected to be $116,500. Maintenance costs are expected to decrease each year, and savings are estimated to increase 2 percent each year.

For completing the LED light project, the city will receive a one-time $257,000 payment through Clark Public Utilities’ Commercial/Industrial Lighting Incentive Program. Wall said that money could be used to repay the debt service, or for other related projects including adding lights in deficient areas of the city.

“My hope is that we will get to the point where this project will identify different areas that need additional lighting,” said Camas Mayor Scott Higgins. “Some of these savings can be used to address that in a way they would not have been able to otherwise.”

According to Clark Public Utilities, streetlight technology continues to evolve.

“LEDs are now the leading-edge for street lamps,” said Bill Hibbs, commercial programs manager, in a 2014 press release. “Their cost is dropping and we’ve had several successful pilots locally that show LED savings and reliability.”

Two of those pilot projects took place in Camas and Washougal, where 100 street lamps were replaced with LED light bulbs.