Mayor Chris Beutler said new technologies now being tested on City streets could reduce energy use, expand the use of renewable energy and save the City money. The City of Lincoln and the Lincoln Electric System (LES) are partnering to test streetlights using light-emitting diode (LED) technology. The City also is partnering with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to install wind and solar hybrid power systems on several traffic intersections.
"Each year, the City of Lincoln spends almost a million dollars on its street lights and $72,000 on its traffic signals and signs, just on energy costs," Beutler said. "Those costs are funded entirely out of the City's general fund, so any savings that can be realized through lowering the energy needs is a direct benefit to the taxpayer."
The City's rehabilitation work on Holdrege Street required that street lighting be relocated, so LES took the opportunity to test the LED lighting from 33rd to 46th streets. Steve Young, LES street light and customer service design supervisor, said crews installed 22 LED lights with a life expectancy of about 50,000 hours or more than 12 years. They replaced 29 high pressure sodium vapor lights with a life expectancy of about six years.
"LED lighting provides more uniform lighting with better color rendition," Young said. "This test will give us important performance data to help us with our future decisions regarding street lighting."
Young said LED lights meet City standards for arterial streets, but LED technology has not been developed to provide illumination levels required for major streets. He said existing high pressure sodium vapor lights at Dairy Store Drive off Holdrege will remain since the poles were not in conflict with the street project, and the lights provide a higher illumination level for the street and intersection.
The City's partnership with UNL is exploring whether the traffic infrastructure could be used to produce energy. A wind generator was installed on traffic signals at 84th Street and Highway 2 in December, and solar panels will be added this spring.
The project is funded with a three-year grant of nearly $1 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Eventually, the team hopes to install wind generators and solar panels at four locations and collect data on energy use and production. Researchers say the goal is for the installations to produce more energy than the traffic infrastructure consumes.
Beutler said both the projects show great promise and are the first steps toward identifying where the City can save the most money through technology. "These are great examples of putting proven energy saving technology to work for Lincoln's taxpayers," he said. "They also help to further Lincoln's growing reputation as the ‘green capital city of the Great Plains.'"