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 The Ferndale City Council received a presentation April 8 on potentially converting the city’s streetlights to LEDs, and the environmental and financial benefits of making the change.

The Ferndale City Council received a presentation April 8 on potentially converting the city’s streetlights to LEDs, and the environmental and financial benefits of making the change.

Photo by Mike Koury

Ferndale looking into LED light conversion for all streetlights

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published April 17, 2019


FERNDALE — At its April 8 meeting, the Ferndale City Council received an evaluation of the city’s streetlights and their potential conversion to LED lights.

The presentation was conducted by city Environmental Sustainability Planner Erin Quetell and energy analyst with EcoWorks Henrik Mader. Quetell said that converting streetlights to LEDs is what a lot of communities have been doing, and the study they did evaluated the condition of Ferndale’s streetlights and how the city can update them.

“It’s just one step, and a pretty easy step to take in making our community more sustainable,” she said.

Quetell’s presentation included the city’s streetlight inventory, which shows that the lights are either owned by Ferndale or largely by DTE Energy. Quetell said there are 1,839 streetlights in the city, 36 of which are owned by Ferndale.

“What we found is 72% is mercury vapor; high-pressure sodium is at 26%; and we only have about 2% of LEDs,” she said. “What that means is the mercury vapor is a very outdated fixture type, similar to the high-pressure sodium, which is a very outdated fixture type, and those are no longer being used in communities, and as they upgrade to LED.”

According to the report, the streetlights are consuming 1,962,398 kilowatt-hours per year of energy, which costs $526,939. They also release a little more than 2.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide.

“By upgrading to LEDs, we can have significant environmental and financial impacts,” Quetell said.

Quetell said the City Council has three options to consider for how it could go about converting the lights to LED, which stands for light-emitting diode. One option is converting all of the city’s DTE-owned, non-LED light fixtures, which could cost between $665,000 and $720,000.

“With this option, you have a monthly reduction of $12,800,” Quetell said. “We would save an annual savings of $153,600 and change, so pretty significant.”

Councilman Dan Martin commented on how Ferndale would have to pay the brunt of this conversion, even though the lights are owned by DTE, which Quetell confirmed.

“DTE will not openly replace LEDs. It would be on the cost of the community,” she said. “Basically, the policy is we’re not permitted to do any work on DTE-owned fixtures, and so this would have to be something contracted with DTE.”

Martin asked to look into this, as well as possibly looking into the city taking ownership of the streetlights.

“I think it would bear further investigation just to at least look into it, because that’s just insanity to me,” he said of the city having to pay for the conversion.

Another option that Quetell laid out is similar to the first option, but in which Ferndale would pay for the conversion of 1,783 lights over a five-year period. The cost would range from $134,000 to $144,000 per year.

“Instead of doing the … LED conversion all at once, it just stretches it over a longer period of time, which can be a little bit easier to budget for, can be a little bit more strategic in the upgrades,” she said.

The third option focuses on only the mercury vapor streetlights, of which Quetell said there are 1,082. That conversion would cost between $65,368.25 and $70,625.75

“They’re the most outdated and the most energy-inefficient fixtures,” she said. “This third option would focus and target those particular fixtures and replace them, and you get the greatest amount of energy conservation and environmental benefits.”

The report states that the conversion of the lights to LED would bring an 800,000-kilowatt-hour reduction, $153,000 in annual savings and 1,076,466 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide.

The City Council requested a report on a recommendation for which option to pick before the end of the fiscal year.

“The options are basically financial, and so that’s going to be a conversation that we’ll need to have through the budget process,” Mayor Dave Coulter said. “What can we afford, what pots of money do we have to pay for what.”