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LED Streetlighting - Shedding Light on the Subject

At a recent meeting of city managers from King County and Snohomish County, representatives from Seattle City Light and the city of Shoreline presented information about the move to convert street lighting from the orange glow of high-pressure sodium we've all come to know and love to the latest innovation, light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. {C}With over 26 million streetlights in the United States, this promises to be no small task, but the payoff is tremendous. Not only do LEDs use far less energy (Seattle estimates between 48 percent and 62 percent), but they last longer, too. About 10 percent of the streetlights in service right now are LEDs, but the goal is 75 percent by the year 2020.

The representatives from Seattle and Shoreline reported that neighborhood reaction has been largely favorable. Although the LED lights actually produce somewhat lower output measured in lumens, they've heard from the public that the whiter light and truer color rendition actually seem to improve visibility. A couple of before and after photos from the Seattle website illustrate the difference.

Before LED conversion

After LED conversion

The Municipal Solid-State Street Lighting Consortium has been formed through the U.S. Department of Energy to help promote the effort and expand the knowledge gained from experience and research and development (R&D). At present the consortium includes over 350 members, including municipalities, schools, and electric utilities.

With 90 percent of the bill for street lighting coming from tax dollars, this looks like a "no brainer" for local governments as the high-pressure sodium lights end their useful lives.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

Photo of Lynn Nordby

About Lynn Nordby

Lynn’s public sector career included over 30 years in local government management and experience in virtually all municipal services including the operations of a wide variety of municipal utilities. He is now retired.