Avista crews putting city in new light

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Avista linemen Pat Dotson, above, and Chris Gavin change the streetlight at the corner of Third and Church Thursday in Sandpoint. (Photo by LYNNE HALEY)

SANDPOINT — Avista work crews are currently replacing the streetlights in Sandpoint, switching out old-style bulbs for new ones that some say are overly bright.

The power company owns most street lighting within the city limits, according to Avista spokesperson Debbie Simock. As part of a five-year project in Idaho and Washington, the company is replacing its older high-pressure sodium lights with LEDs, according to an Avista fact sheet.

The switch to energy-efficient light-emitting diode technology is a tall order for Avista, which says it owns approximately 30,000 streetlight units overall. Simock says the Sandpoint project involves 470 units and should take about a month. She says that crews started working on the switch Feb. 8 and plan to finish by March 7.

The old HPS bulbs have lit up cities worldwide since 1964, according to the Edison Tech Center. They emit a amber-toned glow. In contrast, the LED replacements give off bright, crisp light from the blue end of the spectrum that enhances people's depth and color perception at night, Simock says.

When Avista began replacing its streetlights in Spokane this past October, the stark brightness caught the attention of residents, reported the Spokesman-Review. In an Oct. 25 column, writer Doug Clark quipped, "These lights are really no worse than staring directly into the sun."

Simock says that the replacement lights are actually no brighter than the old ones. "Over time, the (HPS) light starts to diminish, and buildup of insects and dust dulls the light. The new LEDs can appear brighter at first glance, she says.

Avista gives several reasons for the changeover to LEDs in its fact sheet. The price of LEDs has come down, making them more cost-effective. Also, they use 50 percent less energy than HPS bulbs, and they last up to three times longer. Once the switchover is complete, Avista will save as much as 3.1 megawatts of electricity per night, or enough to power 2,300 homes, the fact sheet says.

Also, it states that energy savings and longer bulb life put less stress on the environment. Crews won't need to replace LEDs as often, saving on gas and reducing carbon emissions. And, unlike old HPS light that contain mercury, LEDs are 100 percent recyclable, according to the information.

Although customers will not see utility bill savings from this project, they stand to benefit in other ways, says Simock. The LEDs make it easier to see and safer to be out at night. The crisper lighting acts as a crime deterrent, too.

Information: www.avistautilities.com/services/electricity/Documents/Avista_LEDStreetlights Onesheetv2.pdf

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