City begins process of installing LED street lights

$2.4 million project will be completed in the spring

The largest energy efficiency project in city of Camas history recently got underway.

The process of replacing more than 3,000 high-pressure sodium street lights with energy efficient light-emitting diode lights began earlier this month.

“Multiple crews will be on the streets in bucket trucks with flashing lights as they replace lights,” the city posted on its website. “Please be courteous and slow down as you move around the vehicles. We apologize for any inconvenience this conversion may cause while we work towards a long-term community benefit.”

On Feb. 1, installation of the “cobra head” style lights began in the southeast section of the city. Crews will continue the process working northwest, with completion scheduled for early March. Replacement of decorative acorn style lights in newer neighborhoods will begin in April.

“Once the project is completed, the city will have better service reliability, lower energy consumption costs, and lower maintenance costs due to the longer life of LEDs than our current lighting,” the website stated. “LED lights also emit a brighter light quality, with more focused light, better illuminating roads and distributing less light into residents’ windows.”

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.

A portion of the funding to support the $2.4 million project is being gleaned from a $500,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce. 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, at that time. “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 proceeds from the issuance of a limited tax general obligation bond, approved by the city council in 2014.

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 will 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.

City officials have indicated that money could be used to repay the debt service, or for other related projects including adding lights in deficient areas of the city.

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 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.