Infrastructure

Albany, Ga., Proposes $6.5 Million Smart Streetlight Project

The initiative will make all 12,500 streetlights throughout Albany and Dougherty County 40 percent more efficient, but will not reduce utility costs to taxpayers.

by Jon Gosa, The Albany Herald / August 13, 2018
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(TNS) – ALBANY – Officials confirmed Friday that a plan is well underway to replace all 12,500 streetlights throughout Albany and Dougherty County with new, more efficient, camera-ready LED smart streetlights. The Albany City Commission is set to vote on the issue, which would cost taxpayers upward of $6.5 million, Tuesday.

The new infrastructure initiative to improve illumination, which proponents tout would make streetlights up to 40 percent more efficient, comes at a time when Albany already faces the rollout of the new $20 million utility grid smart meter system and a potential $300 million sewer system overhaul.

Officials admit the new “smart streetlight initiative” would produce “no immediate savings because of the debt service associated with the project” and no long-term reduction of utility bills, which has many asking, “Why spend the money?”

“I can’t say that this will lower people’s utility bills,” Albany City Manager Sharon Subadan said Thursday when asked about the streetlight plan. “But it will be a cost avoidance in the future.”

Albany Assistant Manager for Utility Administration Stephen Collier confirmed on Aug. 4, during an unofficial meeting at Merry Acres with a group of about 50 residents and business owners, that Albany Utilities had no intention of transferring savings on to its utility customers.

Albany resident and business owner Chad Warbington asked Collier at the meeting, “If, through these infrastructure improvements, Albany Utilities generates a surplus of savings, would that savings be passed on to customers through lower utility bills?”

“No,” Collier responded.

“We should have an opt-out clause for some customers,” one resident and business owner who asked to remain anonymous said about the infrastructure upgrades. “You will have some people who do not want smart meters or smart lights for various reasons, 5G signal health issues, privacy issues, etc.”

The new LED smart streetlights are immediately recognizable. The color and intensity of the LED light is completely different from historically used metal halide or high-pressure sodium bulbs, and LED’s are much brighter.

LED, which stands for light emitting diode, shines bright white, in contrast to the tradition soft orange hue of streetlights.

As massive rollouts of LED streetlights have occurred in large metropolitan cities such as Seattle and New York, adverse health effects have been reported, so many so, that in 2016, the American Medical Association issued a warning about LED streetlights.

“Despite the energy efficiency benefits, some LED lights are harmful when used as street lighting,” AMA Board Member Dr. Maya A. Babu said. “The new AMA guidance encourages proper attention to optimal design and engineering features when converting to LED lighting that minimize detrimental health and environmental effects.”

According to the AMA, high-intensity LED lighting emits a large amount of blue light that appears white to the naked eye and creates worse nighttime glare than conventional lighting.

“Discomfort and disability from intense, blue-rich LED lighting can decrease visual acuity and safety, resulting in concerns and creating a road hazard,” the AMA report said. “In addition to its impact on drivers, blue-rich LED streetlights operate at a wavelength that most adversely suppresses melatonin during night.

“It is estimated that white LED lamps have five times greater impact on circadian sleep rhythms than conventional street lamps. Recent large surveys found that brighter residential nighttime lighting is associated with reduced sleep times, dissatisfaction with sleep quality, excessive sleepiness, impaired daytime functioning and obesity.”

The detrimental effects of high-intensity LED lighting are not limited to humans, according to the AMA.

“Excessive outdoor lighting disrupts many species that need a dark environment,” the agency’s report said. “For instance, poorly designed LED lighting disorients some bird, insect, turtle and fish species, and U.S. national parks have adopted optimal lighting designs and practices that minimize the effects of light pollution on the environment.

©2018 The Albany Herald, Ga. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.