BAR HARBOR — The Town Council took a step forward this week towards a goal of switching some or all of the streetlights here to LED fixtures. They authorized the town manager to draft a contract with Anapolis, Md.-based Real Term Energy to make the switch. But streetlights, like many public infrastructure systems, are complicated.
First, power company Emera Maine owns most of the streetlights here (374 of them). The town owns the rest, including ones in public parking lots and the decorative fixtures on Main Street.
The town pays $4,500 monthly to operate Emera-owned streetlights and $8,000 to operate town-owned lights, Finance Director Stan Harmon told the council.
Second, rather than metering power used by each light, Emera said it charges a flat fee, or tariff, based on the light’s specifications.
Real Term Energy representative Mark Carter said representatives from the company are meeting with Emera to discuss tariff rates this week.
RTE is proposing that the town assume control of all the Emera-owned lights and then convert them to the newer technology. The firm would do a detailed study of the lighting currently in town, acquire the fixtures from Emera and install the new equipment.
The estimated cost of the project is $232,000. Of that, acquiring the 374 light fixtures from Emera could cost up to $56,100. Carter said the lights could be paid for with a bond issue or through a tax-exempt lease.
If acquisition costs turn out to be lower, as they have for some other towns, Councilor Matt Hochman suggested using the difference to convert town-owned lights to LEDs, to add more lights or both.
Carter’s summary showed the town consuming 60 percent less energy, saving 83 percent on annual electricity costs and saving 11 percent on maintenance.
Carter estimated that the average annual cost per fixture would drop 79 percent, from $155 to $33.
There are three different color temperatures of lights to be used, measuring 2700, 3000 and 4000 Kelvin. The higher Kelvin lights, which produce whiter light, would be used on streets with high traffic, like Main Street. The lower Kelvin lights would be more suited to residential areas.
If lights were causing disturbance for citizens, a device could be installed to dim the lights. This would not lower the tariff being paid for the light, only conserve energy, according to Carter.