LED fixtures will shine a light on Freeport's energy costs

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FREEPORT — The town wants to know what type of street lights residents would like to see before converting more than 200 lights to LED fixtures.

Officials said the change could save the town up to 65 percent in electricity costs. 

Demonstration LED fixtures, which are more energy efficient and last longer than standard lights, have been installed in front of Town Hall for residents to consider.

LED fixtures come in a variety of colors, ranging from a yellow tint to blue, depending on temperature. Two of the four in front of Town Hall are 3,000 kelvin – shedding a warmer light – and the other two are 4,000 – giving off a cooler hue. 

Of the four lights installed, two are labeled “A” and two “B,” but it is not specified which letter represents which temperature.

Residents are asked to tell Town Planner Donna Larson which lights they prefer, by emailing her either “A” or “B” – depending on their preference – prior to the Feb. 27 Town Council meeting.

Although Town Manager Peter Joseph said the town won’t know the exact cost of the project until a contractor is recommended, $127,500 of this year’s capital budget has been designated to fund the conversion. 

But the town can expect to see the cost of electricity decrease from about $46,000 per year to around $8,000 per year with the LEDs. 

“Of course we won’t know the final number until the project is done,” Larson said, noting that whichever fixture is chosen will be a factor in cost.  The 3,000-kelvin fixtures use about 5 percent more electricity than the 4,000-kelvin fixtures.

The town opted to work with Maryland-based RealTerm Energy after seeing successful conversion projects it did in Rockland, South Portland, Biddeford and Falmouth. 

The town expects just over a three-year payback period for the cost of installation. Last fiscal year, the town paid approximately $47,000 for street lights, approximately $25,000 of which was the cost to lease the fixtures from Central Maine Power Co.

“When the LED conversion is done, the town will own the fixtures and the lease cost will go away,” Larson said. “There will still be the electricity charge and the standard service and delivery charge.”

Representatives from RealTerm will be present at the council’s meeting on Feb. 27 to answer questions from the council and public and to discuss various options for the fixtures, such as color and design. 

LED technology also allows add-ons such as security cameras and wireless internet, which Larson said will be considered. 

Larson said she also expects discussion regarding LED lights having a potential negative impact on sleeping patterns, the way cell phones and laptops are said to. 

“The higher the kelvins and bluer the light, the higher chance lights may affect sleep patterns,” Larson said, noting there may be ways to more effectively shield lights from neighboring views, which she anticipates will be reviewed in design discussions on Tuesday. 

“This is a good opportunity for the community to look at the fixtures and let us know what they think,” Larson said. 

Peter said he anticipates entering into a contract with RealTerm and having the lights replaced within the next couple of months, after designs are selected and pricing is set. 

“We’re excited about the project,” Joseph said. “It’s not too often we get to be one of the first municipalities in Maine doing something like this … but it’s been a long time coming.” 

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.