Pittsburgh: Are LEDs the future?


“Electricity-saving, environment-improving street lights may be coming to Pittsburgh, if city officials can agree on how to pick a vendor,” writes Rich Lord of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

According to Lord, a special City Council meeting on lighting took place early this week that attracted the likes of nine companies, one foundation, one university, and Alaska. The consensus was that the city could save over $1 million a year in energy and maintenance costs (not to mention look nicer) if it replaces its 40,000 street lights with light-emitting diode (LED) lights.

“The question is how,” notes Lord.

Lord says that Councilman William Peduto, who called the meeting, wants Pittsburgh to be among the first North American cities to go LED. Peduto estimates making the change would involve a competitive bid of $25 million. The city would probably borrow the money, and pay off the debt using the resulting savings, he said.

LEDs direct their beam more precisely, produce less heat, draw less than half the energy of conventional lamps, and can go decades without maintenance,” writes Lord.

Unfortunately, while LED technology shines brilliantly, Peduto’s plan to finance his dream for Pittsburgh is far from brilliant. The $25 million (plus interest) paying back $1 million a year puts the city’s anticipated profit at just under 50 years, barring light replacement, fixture maintenance, or some other technological advance, that is.

But maybe it’s not all about the money. “I’d like us to be the city of lights,” offers Councilwoman Darlene Harris, arguing that effective, creative lighting could turn the city into “a work of art.”

Ah, “art.” That justifies $25 million and 50 years of debt.



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