Peninsula cities flip on new LED streetlamps

Cities throughout San Mateo County are seeing the light a bit differently.

After Foster City retrofitted some of its traditional high-pressure sodium vapor streetlights to more energy-efficient LED lamps through federal stimulus funding last week, several other San Mateo County cities are planning to do the same.

The pilot project completed its opening stage last Monday, converting 260 traditional streetlights, said Allan Shu of Foster City’s Department of Public Works.

Brisbane was the County’s first city to convert all of its approximately 400 streetlights from high-pressure sodium vapor to LED in September, said Randy Breault, Brisbane’s director of Public Works.

Eight other cities on the peninsula plan to retrofit portions of their streetlights in the coming months, as they are in line to receive federal funding for similar lamp projects. The California Energy Commission granted about $1.1 million to cities in San Mateo County, according to the commission report released in May.

Foster City will save about $17,600 in annual energy costs and will reduce yearly energy consumption by 142,000 kilowatts, along with 74,000 pounds of green house emissions, according to PG&E.

More than 90 percent of Foster City’s streetlamps still run on traditional, high-pressure sodium vapor. Shu said that if this pilot project proves successful, Foster City may retrofit all of its lamps to LED.

Other cities, however, are taking a slower approach.

“I’m not sure how people are going to react to these lights,” said Robert Weil, San Carlos’ director of Public Works. “I’ve seen these lights, and they’re different.”

Weil compares the LED lamps to bluish, glaring modern headlights and said he has worked with PG&E to find with a warmer-tone LED lamps.

“It is a different kind of light,” PG&E spokeswoman Kathleen Romans said. She acknowledged it may take some time for people to adjust from the traditional yellow-toned light. “We do work with our customers to ensure that they are satisfied when the project is complete.”

Though San Carlos plans to retrofit 200 traditional streetlamps in the city’s center in a few months, Weil said he to gauge public reaction before installing the lights in residential areas.

San Carlos, with the 200 fixtures, will annually save about $12,000 in energy costs and reduce its green house emissions by 43,000 pounds, according to PG&E.

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