The Town of Babylon plans this year to install LED lights in all 13,250 of its street lamps, reflecting a shift across Long Island toward energy-efficient lighting.
Experts say the light-emitting diodes consume less electricity, last longer and cause less harm to the environment than traditional bulbs, although they are also expensive to install. Long Island towns and cities have spent millions in recent years to switch to low-energy bulbs, but those that have are already saving around $4.85 million annually.
Once the new lights are installed at an estimated cost of $3.64 million, Babylon expects its street lighting expenses to drop by as much as $900,000 every year, according to Tom Stay, the town’s commissioner of public works.
“It’s going to save us a significant amount of money,” Stay said. “Our maintenance costs should be practically nothing.”
The town currently spends around $1.2 million annually to illuminate its low- and high-pressure sodium lamps and another $200,000 to maintain them. Four public works department staffers are assigned to replacing the 30 to 40 old bulbs that go out every day.
Those employees will take on other maintenance tasks, Stay said, and their positions will be eliminated through attrition as they retire. The town will likely pay for the project with capital bonds or a tax-exempt lease, he said.
The town plans to invite companies to bid next month to provide and install the LEDs, said Stay, who hopes all of the new lights will be up by the end of 2017.
Babylon is the latest in a series of municipalities on Long Island to make the move to energy-efficient street lighting.
Four towns have already installed LED or induction bulbs - another type of energy-efficient light - in all of their street lamps, according to officials, while eight other towns and cities on the island have installed them in some of their lights.
Smithtown was among the earliest towns to make the switch, according to Mitch Crowley, the town’s director of traffic safety. The town began installing LEDs in its 12,000 streetlights in 2010, Crowley said, and is currently finishing the effort. The project cost around $4.5 million, Crowley said, but it has reduced the town’s annual electric bill by around $520,000.
Hempstead finished installing LEDs in its 50,000 streetlights last year, according to Town Spokesman Michael Deery. The lights cost $1.97 million to install.
“The projected cost savings over a 20-year period are $43 million,” he said.
Villages are also getting in on the conversion. The Village of Hempstead spent $1.3 million to install 2,700 LED lights last year as part of a policing initiative, according to Jenise C. Richardson, a spokesperson. The village will save $220,000 in energy costs annually, she said.
E. Fred Schubert, a professor of electrical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, and a consultant to LED manufacturers, said that LED lights are less harmful to the environment than their antecedents. They do not contain the mercury of fluorescent bulbs, he said, they produce less waste by lasting longer, and they use less energy, which means less fossil fuel burned.
According to Jeffrey Weir, a spokesperson for PSEG Long Island, a majority of of Long Island’s electricity comes from fossil fuels.
Schubert estimated that installing LEDs in all of Long Island’s streetlights would reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to power them by approximately 30 to 50 percent.
Tom Stay of Babylon said that an additional advantage of LEDs is that the brighter light they cast will make the town safer as well.
Brandon C. Welsh, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University, said academic research has demonstrated the connection between lighting and public safety.
“The weight of evidence suggests that improved street lighting (i.e., increased intensity) reduces crime by about 20%,” Welsh wrote in an email.
Yet it is because of the intensity of some LEDs that they have provoked consternation in some of the places where they have been installed.
Some residents of New York City, for example, have complained that new LED streetlights there cast a harsh, unattractive glow, according to a New York Times story.
Such complaints were not to be heard on a recent morning among residents of a stretch of Lafayette St. in Copiague where Babylon has been testing out LED streetlights for the past year and a half.
“I haven’t noticed it, to tell you the truth,” said Maciek Serafin, 31, of the new lights illuminating his street.
Serafin, who grew up in Copiague, said he supports the plan if the cost savings trickle down to town residents.
“If it saves money for the town, beautiful,” he said. “But I want to see how it’ll change my taxes. “I really would love to believe that it’ll come back to the people.”
Energy-efficient Streetlights in Long Island Towns and Cities:
Hempstead – Installed LEDs in all of its 50,000 streetlights. Expects to save $43 million over 20 years.
Islip – Installed induction lights in all of its 25,000 streetlights, saving $1 million in energy costs annually.
Smithtown – Installed LEDs in all of its 12,000 streetlights, saving $520,000 in energy costs annually.
Southold – Installed LEDs in all of its 220 streetlights, saving $10,120 annually.
Babylon – Will install LEDs in all of its 13,250 streetlights this year. Projected annual energy savings of up to $700,000.
Huntington – Installed induction lights in 16,700 of 20,000 streetlights, saving $700,000 in utility costs annually. Plans to convert rest.
Oyster Bay – Installed LEDs in 10,000 - 12,000 of 18,000 - 20,000 streetlights, saving $83,000 annually. Plans to convert rest.
Long Beach – Installed LEDs in 1,100 of 1,862 street lights, saving $182,325 annually. Plans to convert rest.
Riverhead – Installed LEDs in 2,167 of town’s 6,500 lights, reducing costs by half. Plans to convert rest.
Brookhaven – Installed LEDs in 4,000 - 5,000 of 43,000 lights, saving $200,000 in energy costs annually. Plans to convert rest.
North Hempstead – Installed LEDs in 126 streetlights. Considering installing more as replacement bulbs.
Glen Cove – Installed LEDs in 100 of 1,667 streetlights, saving $5,000 - 6,000 annually. Plans to convert rest.
Southampton – Installed “a few” LEDs in 3,000 streetlights. Considering installing more.
East Hampton – Considering an energy-efficient lighting program.
Shelter Island – Plans to install LEDs in town’s 12 streetlights at some point.
The figures are estimates and come from the towns and cities.