The electric vehicle charging station at the Northeast Harbor Marina. PHOTO COURTESY OF PHIL LICHTENSTEIN

LED streetlights coming soon, EV charger ready for action

MOUNT DESERT — The type of LED light that will replace Mount Desert’s existing streetlights has been selected by the town’s Sustainability Committee and will be installed this summer.

Committee Chairman Phil Lichtenstein said the LED made by Cree Inc. was chosen for its “warm light, anti-glare diffuser lens, low wattage and lumen output.”

A few weeks ago, the Sustainability Committee had various LED lights installed at two locations in Northeast Harbor and one in Seal Harbor and invited residents to weigh in on which ones they liked. The committee held a public meeting last Thursday at which residents could comment on their preferences, but only two community members attended.

Lichtenstein said committee members anticipate there will be some complaints about new lights once they are installed.

“We want to get them hung and then deal with problems on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “We want people to be happy. We don’t want a light shining in your bathroom window.”

The committee agreed to order some light shields that can be placed on the LEDs to eliminate such problems.

Voters at the 2016 town meeting authorized the town to borrow up to $150,000 for the streetlight conversion project. In 2017, voters authorized borrowing another $32,500. The town subsequently sent out a request for proposals for “removing or eliminating approximately 294 existing Emera Maine-owned mercury vapor and high pressure sodium street lights … and installing municipally owned LED streetlights.”

The Sustainability Committee and Public Works Director Tony Smith chose RealTerm Energy to design and coordinate the installation.

The town is switching to LED streetlights because they are “dark sky compliant” and use less electricity. The town also will save money by owning the lights.

“We pay Emera Maine a fixed lease payment for the current ones, but will now pay only for the electricity and at a lower rate,” Smith said.

Lichtenstein said one challenge in switching to LED lights is that some of the utility poles on which the fixtures will be installed are not exactly perpendicular to the ground.

“If the pole is not perfectly plumb and the arm that comes off it is not perfectly plumb and we put a light on it, the light could be pointing up, defeating the [dark sky] purpose,” he said. “So, we’ll need to have it shimmed because we need to have the lights as plumb as possible.”

EV charging station

This will be the first summer for the first public electric vehicle charging station in Mount Desert. Located next to the Yachtsman’s Building at the Northeast Harbor Marina, it can charge two vehicles at the same time.

EV drivers pay by a card system for charging, so there is no cost to the town for the electricity used.

ChargePoint, the company that makes the chargers, tracks usage for the town.

“We’ll be able to evaluate how the station is used, and the software allows us to set the rate EV drivers pay for each hour of charging,” Lichtenstein said.

The current rate is $1.50 an hour.

Sustainability Committee member Gordon Beck said the EV charger can provide an economic benefit to Northeast Harbor.

“More tourists will be driving to and through this area in EVs, and if they know they can charge up here, it’s a good reason for a visit,” he said. “If they want something to do while their EV is charging, Main Street is just a short stroll up Sea Street. It’s a benefit for the businesses in the village, and it encourages return visits.”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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