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Stephen Joersz knows replacing nearly 4,000 street lights across Minot won’t be an easy task – but he also knows it needs to be done.
The City owns almost 4,000 street lights. While some have been updated to LED, the vast majority remain the older high pressure sodium lights.
“We have thousands of street lights throughout Minot,” said Joersz, traffic engineer for the City of Minot. “It costs between $1,000 and $1,400 to replace a light with a new LED light. We’ve budgeted $115,000 this year, so that will pay for approximately 100 lights. Doing the math, we’ve got a lot of work to do in getting all these lights replaced.”
LEDs have been installed in some locations in Minot, including in the Oak Park area, on Burdick Expressway near the Roosevelt Park Zoo, and downtown. Those lights were upgraded as part of construction projects, a method that will continue, Joersz said.
“We’re kind of hitting this issue from two sides,” Joersz said. “Some of these older lights will be replaced with capital improvement funds and others will be upgraded as part of construction projects.”
While the initial cost is higher, there are several long-term benefits of using LED lights versus the older high pressure sodium versions.
“We spend approximately $500,000 a year on electricity for street lights, which is about a third of my total budget,” Joersz said. “When you combine those savings with the reduction in maintenance costs, there’s an opportunity to make a significant reduction in long-term costs.”
Joersz said Minot uses two types of street lights that are designed for different functions.
“Generically speaking, they both light up the street. But neighborhood lights are lower profile and provide light to a more focused, smaller area,” he said. “Whereas the high mast lights you see along busy roadways like Burdick or Broadway are designed to light up much bigger areas.”
When LEDs first came out, they used more of a white light that drew complaints about being too bright. Joersz said those concerns have been addressed by reducing the brightness of LEDs,
“Some people think that LEDs aren’t as bright as the old lights, but that’s not true. LEDs don’t have what is called ‘light pollution.’ The old ones leave a warm glow everywhere, whereas the LEDs light up the roadway, the sidewalk, and the boulevard area without scattering light onto nearby homes,” he said. “Think of the LEDs as more of a cone of light with a hard cutoff, versus the old ones that scatter light everywhere.”
Xcel Energy owns approximately 1,200 street lights in Minot, and the company has converted all of those to LED.
“That’s our goal, too,” Joersz said. “How many we do every year depends on funding. A lot of cities have already done this, but Minot is a bit behind. We still have a lot of high pressure sodium lights, so we have a lot of work left to do on this.”