East Hawaii News

County Looking to Continue LED Streetlight Conversion

July 22, 2013, 5:50 PM HST
* Updated July 22, 5:53 PM
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Usually, waiting to make a purchase means paying a higher price.

But sometimes that’s not the case with high-tech items, such as those newfangled streetlights.

The county has already replaced about 1,000 of the older, low-pressure sodium streetlights with the new LED versions.

The old ones emit an amber light, while the new ones cast a green glow.

Federal stimulus funds provided the $500,000 needed for that project, which involved replacing streetlights in Hilo, Waimea and Kona located within a quarter-mile of street signals.

According to Ron Thiel, head of the Traffic Division of the Department of Public Works, that leaves about 9,000 more streetlights to be replaced.

But Thiel said he is waiting until at least the first of the year because that’s when the next generation of the street lights will be coming out, complete with a lower price.

It’s a win-win-win deal for taxpayers.

The new lights will last longer than the old ones, and they also use significantly less electricity.

Thiel said before the first batch of replacements, the county was spending about $2 million annually to light Big Island streets.

Because the streetlights near intersections are usually the strongest ones used, the county is already saving $200,000.

“I figure when I’m all done (the county’s bill) will be about $1 million a year,” Thiel said.

There’s also less light pollution from the newer version because the light is directed downward, which makes the astronomers from the observatories atop Mauna Kea happier.

Thiel said several municipalities on the mainland – particularly those with nearby observatories, such as Flagstaff, Ariz. – have been in touch with him to inquire about the changeover.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii County Council is poised to approve the acceptance of $700,000 in state funding for purchase next year of new LED streetlights for state highways on the Big Island.

The state buys the lights and covers their electricity, but pays the county to take care of their installation and maintenance.

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