Colorado Springs plans air quality, traffic tracking sensors on streetlights, acceleration of LED conversion – Colorado Springs Gazette

February 8, 2022 by No Comments

A streetlight in Colorado Springs could do far more than illuminate our paths by gathering data on air quality, snowfall and traffic patterns, although perfecting the new purposes of the poles will likely take time as the city works through pilot projects. 

Two city pilot projects to extend the capabilities of streetlights by controlling their brightness remotely and gathering weather data hit challenges recently, with the first showing limited promise efficiency gains, and the other hitting problems with data collection. Still, the city expects to press on with plans to outfit lights with new sensors, said Joshua Pace, senior contracting specialist with the city’s Office of Innovation. For example, in the coming year, sensors could collect ozone data to help educate the public about air pollution. 

Streetlights can also be used to detect gunshots, provide free community Wi-Fi and track parking trends.  

“They are great because they are all over the city. They already have power to them, so it’s just really convenient for smart city tech,” Pace said. 

During a presentation to the Colorado Springs City Council on Monday, Pace said the city tested 50 remote controlled LED streetlights on two different schedules and found dimming them in the middle of the night created minimal energy savings. When dimmed for two hours, the city saved 1% of the energy that would normally be used and over four hours 3% of the energy was saved, he said. The project cost $23,803, said Ryan Trujillo, deputy chief of staff.

The city doesn’t expect to scale up the program to remotely control LED lights further, in part, because the cost of controllers is prohibitive and they do not meet minimum specifications for surge protection. 

The Office of Innovation would like to speed up the transition to LED streetlights in general, in part because the lights have been shown to achieve significant energy savings in other cities. In 2020, Phoenix finished converting its 100,000 streetlights to LED bulbs, a project expected to reduce emissions by 18,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year — the equivalent of taking 3,800 cars off the road, according to a news release. The conversion is expected to save the city $3.5 million annually.

Colorado Springs has about 29,000 streetlights and has converted about 18% of them to LEDs, Trujillo said. Colorado Springs Utilities converts lights to LEDs when a light fixture fails, because it is expensive to pre-emptively change an entire light fixture. If a high pressure sodium bulb burns out, it is replaced with a similar bulb.

The city would like to accelerate the transition to LED lights through grants, he said. Right now the full transition is expected to take 10 years. 

“It ultimately comes down to funding,” Trujillo said. 

The city pays Colorado Springs Utilities $4 million to maintain and operate streetlights, an amount that has been relatively flat in recent years, Pace said. The transition to LED lights all at once would significantly increase that annual bill because of the capital cost, Trujillo said. 

The bill is based in part on an annual energy consumption of 23 million kWh, said spokeswoman Danielle Nieves. Cities that have transitioned to LED lights have cut their energy consumption in half, she said. 

The conversion to LEDs in Phoenix was expected to cost about $30 million, Phoenix said. 

The pilot program to test six weather sensors found they did not collect accurate snow depth data over streets because of interference from cars, pace said. The the city plans to relocate the sensors to quieter areas such …….



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