San Francisco poised to test LED, Wi-Fi tech on street lights

Beth Laberge/Special to the S.F. ExaminerEight companies will participate in San Francisco's pilot LED streetlight program.

Energy-saving streetlights and wireless systems controlling them will be tested in three San Francisco neighborhoods next year, and ultimately the technology could be used to control all 18,500 city-owned lamps and other devices such as traffic signals and surveillance cameras.

Eight companies have been selected under a San Francisco Public Utilities Commission  pilot program, and they will each receive a $15,000 stipend to demonstrate what their wireless streetlight systems can do. The technology will be tested in the Sunset, Presidio Heights and downtown neighborhoods.

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If all goes as planned, 60 percent of San Francisco’s streetlights — the remainder are owned by PG&E — will be controlled by a high-tech wireless system by 2015 under the $16 million LED Street Light Conversion Project.

The SFPUC says LED, or light-emitting diode, fixtures are superior to the existing high-pressure sodium cobra head-style streetlights. They consume 50 percent less energy on average than the conventional streetlights and generally do not require maintenance for up to 20 years.

The technology would allow the lights to be monitored in real time, allowing the SFPUC to detect whether a replacement is needed, respond more quickly to outages and adjust brightness levels remotely, said Charles
Sheehan, a spokesman for the agency.

“We do get calls — ‘It’s too bright. It’s not bright enough,’” Sheehan said.

A Dec. 11 SFPUC memo says, “Each pilot project partner will supply 18 LED street lights with integrated controls, supporting equipment and web access to software. In addition to the integration of the LED street lights with the controls, various sensors and video cameras will be tested.”

The pilot program is intended to showcase the various technology options.

“Ideally, the wireless system will accommodate other wireless devices, unrelated to street lighting, in a common wireless system mesh network that will maximize the value of the SFPUC’s investment,” the memo said.  

Community meetings are planned for January in the test neighborhoods. Those areas include Irving Street between Sixth and 24th avenues, Washington Street between Presidio Avenue and Arguello Boulevard, and Pine Street between Market Street and Grant Avenue.

The pilot is expected to begin in March, with total installation and a Wi-Fi network slated for 2014. The project is estimated to take about a year and a half to complete.

The SFPUC says on its website that the LED lights will improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers, and “will illuminate our streets and sidewalks with a neutral white light that is similar to the natural light of the moon.”

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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