LED street lighting is coming—in phases

It’s not a question of if streetlights in Park Bugleland are going to be converted to LEDs, but when, and it mostly has to do with which entity owns them.

The City of Falcon Heights owns the lights within its boundaries on Larpenteur Avenue and those have already been converted to LED. Xcel Energy owns the rest of the street lights in Falcon Heights and will be changing them over in 2017. For Lauderdale, where Xcel also owns the lights, the conversion will take place by the end of the current year.

For the Como and St. Anthony Park neighborhoods in St. Paul, things get a little more complicated.

The LED technology is appealing to public officials generally, because such fixtures consume much less energy and last longer than the ones they replace.

But when lights in the Lexington/Hamline neighborhood of St. Paul were changed to LED, some residents complained that the new lighting was too harsh.

In addition, this past June the American Medical Association warned that high-intensity LED lighting creates more pronounced nighttime glare than conventional lighting, raising concerns about driving safety. The association also advised that such streetlights suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone related to healthy sleep patterns.

The City of St. Paul is studying the possible use of lower intensity LEDs for its lantern-style boulevard lighting, says John McNamara, lead electrician for the City of St. Paul’s Traffic Operations. At any rate, for the time being it would be too costly to convert all of the city-owned boulevard streetlights to LED.

It’s a different story, however, for the pole-mounted lights that illuminate roadways across St. Paul. Those fixtures will be replaced by LEDs within the next two to three years.

“We will be doing these based on circuit configurations and not really an area-by-area plan,” McNamara said. “We have a fair amount of planning work ahead of us, in order to transition in a way that allows us to take full advantage of Xcel rebates and electricity savings.

“As is the case with the boulevard lights, we are also analyzing additional information that has been brought to our attention with regard to color temperatures of the roadway lighting. That may influence how we move forward,” McNamara added.

The coordinator of Xcel Energy’s LED program says the utility is aware of the criticism of the lighting.

“LED street lights are very directive,” said Ed Bieging, “designed to only shine on the roadway. In some, not all, situations, a home may be located close to a newly installed LED street light, causing some light trespass. In that case, Xcel will adjust the street light to minimize the light trespass.”

    1 Response

    1. Rick Reilly

      The new lighting I’ve seen on certain St. Paul streets is hideous and resembles that of Menards or Home Depot. Even worse, certain residents are installing similar LED ligting both in and outside their homes. It’s visual pollution. In time entire neighborhoods will be blanketed in a harsh fluorescent-toned haze, and once charming streets will look like never-ending industrial parks. Bring on the zombies. Don’t bother, they’re here.

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