While more cities and towns are making the move to LED streetlights, Anchorage, Alaska, is going even further. As part of a pilot project in 2008, the city, under then-mayor Mark Begich, converted about 4,000 of its roughly 16,000 streetlights from sodium vapor to LED, making the city one of the first in the nation to move in this direction.

There were two main reasons behind the decision to shift to LED lighting. One, of course, was cost savings, which is something that every city views as a benefit. Savings occur from reduced energy costs and from the reduced frequency with which LED lamps need to be replaced.


The other reason is related to light pollution, which is a topic of major importance to the people of Anchorage. The LED installations are designed to preserve the Alaskan night sky, complying with International Dark-Sky Association and Illuminating Engineering Society of North America standards.


“This initiative will not only result in lower energy bills but will contribute to the preservation of our unique Alaskan ecologies,” Begich said.


In December 2016, the city decided to move ahead with replacing additional streetlights in and around the city with LEDs and to introduce a new wireless system, called LightGrid, to the lamp posts that can remotely control the LED lamps, dimming or brightening them as needed. It also provides information on burned-out lamps using a system that will have each lamp check in every 15 minutes to make sure it is still functional.


In an interview with Alaska Dispatch News, city spokesperson Jim Jager likened the technology to using a smartphone to unlock a house door or turn on a smoke detector.


During a recent international conference presentation, Anchorage’s current mayor, Ethan Berkowitz, said that the new lamps, besides cutting down on light pollution, will also save money for the city.


“Here in Anchorage, our ambition is to be one of the world’s most efficient cities,” he said.


The next phase under consideration—even though funding hasn’t yet been authorized—will be to set the poles up in such a way that they can become video and audio data sensors that will be able to monitor traffic, measure air quality and automatically direct emergency response vehicles to specific locations when needed, such as by providing information on the general location of a gunshot.