Street lights at the University of Alaska Fairbanks will be converted to LED this summer. The project, estimated to cost between $1 and $2.5 million, is currently out for bid. Fairbanks Metropolitan Area Transportation System coordinator Donna Gardino lists it as the latest of three projects targeting lights in the cities of North Pole and Fairbanks.
"[We have] converted about 84 percent of the city's local streets to LED and all of the North Pole city street lights have been converted. The third stage is going to be on the streets around the University of Alaska campus where we anticipate approximately just over 200 lights to be converted to LED," she said.
Gardino counts over 2,500 total lights converted with the addition of the UAF project, with 90 percent of the cost covered by federal grants. The LED’s replace high pressure sodium bulbs: the previous standard for efficiency. City of Fairbanks engineer Jerry Colp says the new technology substantially raises the bar, chopping the city’s annual electricity bill for street lights in half.
"We were paying over $600,000 for street lights alone in the city of Fairbanks annual power cost, and we're in the range of less than $300,000 right now per year," he said.
Colp chalks up additional savings to decreased maintenance required for LED lights. He says the city used to pay an electrical contractor $50,000 to $75,000 a year to replace burned out bulbs, and other components, which are not an issue with LEDs. "We're expecting 30 years operating life without any replacement," he said.
Colp says LEDs also provide a better quality of illumination. "It's closer to the sunlight spectrum, so you see colors truer to their natural state," he said. Colp further points to LED’s consistent performance over time, and noting an advantage more specific to Fairbanks. "They burn brighter the colder it gets. The heat dissipation of the LED's are accelerated with the colder temperatures, therefore they burn brighter and they last longer," Colp said.
The UAF LED conversion project is expected to be completed by October 1. FMAT’s Gardino says it’s the last standalone conversion, but others will happen as part of road overhaul projects.