Amidst the scramble for federal grant dollars, the city of Davis is looking to upgrade its traffic light system.
The Davis Natural Resources Commission recommended the approval of a proposal last Wednesday by city engineers to replace existing city traffic lights with LED lighting, or light-emitting diode lighting. The proposal will be voted on at the Davis City Council meeting on June 2 before being sent to the federal government for review.
The LED lighting project is one of a few projects that will be sent in the proposal. If approved, Davis could receive almost $600,000 in funding from the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant or EECBG.
City officials are hoping for a formula grant. These grants are allocated to cities with over 35,000 residents and counties with over 200,000. To acquire a grant, cities and counties must outline projects that will increase jobs and promote sustainability and energy-efficiency. Davis must compete with other communities for limited funding based on the efficiency of its proposed projects.
“The LED project is a kind of a favorite among a number of other cities, including San Jose and San Francisco,” said Bruce Boyd, Davis‘ Geographical Information System (GIS) manager.
Currently, the cost to run all 4,000 traffic lights in Davis is about $32,000 a month. By replacing all the traffic lights with LED traffic lights, the city could cut that cost by up to 45 percent.
“Recently, we have been trying to get a better grasp on LED lights and the wide range of quality in the industry,” said city engineer Bob Clarke. “LED has been proclaimed the savior of energy-efficient lighting practices, but not all are built of the same quality.“
City electrician Butch Breault also emphasized the need for quality LED lights.
“You get what you pay for,” Breault said.
LED lights offer many advantages over the current induction lights that are used in traffic lights, including lower energy consumption, longer lifetimes, smaller size and lower light-up times.
A major concern for implementing new LED lights is their high initial price. According to Breault, prices have been falling due to large technological changes in the past few years.
LED lighting also offers another advantage. The city of Davis currently only owns about 3,700 of the traffic lights in the city. The others are owned and operated by PG&E at a more expensive rate. Replacing all lights in the city would also bring all 4,000 traffic lights under city control.
The LED lighting project does not have an official cost as of now due to the variety of manufacturers available. Clarke estimated a few months time for research and consultation before more exact figures on the cost and payback of installing LED lights could be given.
The LED lighting project is expected to be the most energy and cost efficient project being proposed to the Davis City Council, and in turn the federal government. Other projects included in the proposal are revamped energy management systems and building commissioning for city facilities, funding for fleet upgrades for hybrid and GEM vehicles, and possibly converting the Covell Greenbelt to turf. The Natural Resources Commission also recommended including on-site power generation technology to be added to the proposal.
The proposal must be submitted to the Department of Energy by June 5, placing a stringent time constraint on the city’s decision process. Because of this the proposed projects are not especially specific.
“We’re trying to describe projects generally enough so that there can be some flexibility,” said Mitch Sears, Davis‘ Sustainability Program manager.
The city of Woodland has considered submitting a bid that only includes the LED lighting system in order to get the most bang for its buck, but Davis city planners say they have more ideas they want to get funded in addition to the LED upgrades.
“The government is really interested in progress,” Boyd said.
Boyd saw the city of Davis as having a better shot at approval by the federal government if the proposal were to show more diversity in projects and continual usage in their implementation.
“We don’t want to put it all into street lights because it’s a one-time thing and then you’re done,” he said.
RONNY SMITH can be reached at email@example.com.