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WRCOG Creates Brighter Future by Improving the Nighttime Sky

By: WRCOG Staff on May 24, 2019
LED Streetlamp at Dusk with words: Brighter than yesterday. #WRCOGStreetlights

There are literally tens of thousands of streetlights in Western Riverside County, yet they are only noticed when a lamp goes out or a pole is knocked down.  But who owns the streetlights? What are their maintenance costs? How much energy do they consume? It was out of these questions that the Western Riverside Council of Government’s (WRCOG) Regional Streetlight Program was born.

Streetlights are usually utility owned, maintained, operated, and replaced on a jurisdiction’s behalf; jurisdictions pay the utility to lease the streetlights on a monthly, per-pole basis.  When WRCOG and member jurisdictions examined the cumulative costs, they concluded that there could be significant savings achieved if the poles could be purchased, retrofitted to LED bulbs, and maintained in-house.  With the prospect of cost-savings in mind, WRCOG member jurisdictions tasked staff to find a way to help them purchase the streetlights in their communities. 

After more than two years, the mission has been accomplished. In all, the Regional Streetlight Program will retrofit 55,000 streetlights across eleven participating member agencies, resulting in a total savings of $70 million over 20 years. The retrofit to LED technologies will reap additional energy and cost savings, offsetting the typical energy use of 2,500 homes each year.

But the benefits of the program did not stop there.

In addition to the substantial cost and energy savings, the Regional Streetlight Program also helps preserve the nighttime sky. By retrofitting streetlight lamps to LED technology, light pollution in the nighttime sky is minimized. The Palomar Observatory in northern San Diego County is particularly appreciative for this retrofit as most of its astrology research is conducted--wait for it---in the evening.  Additionally, the LED retrofit improves public safety - a top priority of most local governments - by enhancing color differentiation. With streetlight ownership, the Program also creates opportunities for economic development and innovation as jurisdictions can invest in smart city infrastructure and revenue generating opportunities by utilizing the streetlight poles.

Retrofits are underway and have been completed in several communities!