Cities Focus on Increasing Efficiency of Street Lamps

Some cities are modifying streetlights to curb electricity use, reports the Wall Street Journal. San Jose, Calif., for example, is testing "adaptive lighting," which allows streetlights to flash or get darker or brighter with commands. By summer 2009, the city hopes to install 125 of these streetlights, which feature light-emitting diode (LED) technology. San Jose anticipates paying $150,000 to $200,000 for a pilot program, which could be expanded, using $2 million in federal stimulus funds. Depending on their brightness, the LED streetlights might save 10 percent to 60 percent on energy consumption.

San Jose currently pays Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) a flat rate of about $300,000 per month for electricity. PG&E is mulling a new rate program that would reduce costs for LED streetlights. The proposed program first needs to be assessed by state utility regulators. Nationwide, street and highway lights represent approximately 2 percent of the nation's power use, according to the Department of Energy.

Burt Jones, the assistant director of the Lick Observatory near San Jose, advocates the use of LED lights that remove near-infrared and ultraviolet light, or that the lights be dimmed after midnight to ensure clear sky views.

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