ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The difference is as stark as night and day – so to speak.
On Thursday, Mayor Richard Berry and city officials gathered to announce plans to convert city streetlights throughout Albuquerque to LED technology, or light-emitting diodes.
LED lights use less electricity, last longer, emit less heat and more light in a wider range of color tints than currently used high-pressure sodium or mercury vapor street lamps.
Consequently, the city will realize significant savings in electricity and maintenance over an LED bulb’s 18-year lifespan, which is five times longer than the bulbs used today, Berry said during a news conference in Martineztown Park.
Further, LED lighting can be better focused and directed, decreasing light pollution and preserving night skies while making streets and neighborhoods safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles, Berry said.
There are an estimated 32,000 streetlights in Albuquerque. About 20,000 of them are owned by the city and 12,000 by Public Service Company of New Mexico. The conversion will apply to city-owned lights while PNM will negotiate separately to convert the lights that it controls.
The project, three years in the planning, recently won unanimous approval by the City Council’s Finance and Government Operations Committee. It has wide support and is expected to pass when the full council votes on it next week, Berry said.
The winning bidder on the project, Citelum, is based in Houston and has its international headquarters in Paris. If all goes as planned, Citelum could begin the conversion by Nov. 1 and complete the project in 12 months, said J. C. Florenson, Citelum’s business development director.
The company retrofitted select streets in Martineztown as part of pilot program to demonstrate the benefits of LED.
The cost of the citywide conversion will be about $20 million, offset by the expected $19 million in energy and maintenance savings over the contract’s 15 years. The conversion mostly involves replacing the heads on light poles. The new heads contain sensors that will send an alert should a bulb malfunction or go out. Florenson said the transition to LED is not just about providing more illumination; rather, it’s about appropriate illumination. That means different illumination levels and tints for residential neighborhoods, arterial streets and commercial and warehouse districts.
Better illumination will also enhance public safety and enable security cameras to pick up and record more information, said Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden.
“Crime does not like illumination. Never has, never will. So for us in law enforcement, we are really looking forward to the start and completion of this project,” he said.
In addition, the new LED lights will also reduce the city’s carbon footprint by more than 123,000 metric tons over 15 years. That, said Berry, is the equivalent of removing 13,000 single-family homes from the electric grid for one year, or taking 26,000 cars off the road for a year.