Energy efficient street lights on display
Talk of the town- October 2010
A new light shines on Old Town Beaumont. It saves energy, beautifies its surroundings and preserves starry night skies. Old-fashioned street lamps with cutting-edge LED light bulbs cast a soothing, natural white “moonlight” across Beaumont’s historic downtown, drawing people out for evening strolls as summer disappears and fall approaches. The new street lights are the talk of the town.
Claudia Mayo, manager of the Bank of Hemet, says her customers have praised the new street lights. “We’ve gotten very positive feedback,” she said. “I’ve driven down Sixth Street myself after-hours and noticed the difference.”
Marla Christensen, owner of the popular Marla’s restaurant along Sixth Street, appreciates the new street lights as she leaves at night.
“They look really, really nice and give off more light,” she said.
For about two years, Beaumont has been doing roadwork in the older parts of town. At the same time, the city has been upgrading street lighting on the roads that we drive every day. Gone are the weathered, old, wooden utility poles with high pressure sodium lights and hanging wires. They’ve been replaced with decorative, antique black, high-tech metal poles that come with underground wiring. Between energy costs and maintenance, Beaumont is saving 30 percent annually by using LED street lights. Every year, this will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 15 tons.
The new street lighting focuses the light on the ground and complies with the city’s Dark Sky ordinance. In all, 163 new street lights have been installed in the downtown area. In addition, Beaumont now owns those street lights instead of the utility company. The use of LED lights is part of a growing trend in new housing projects and retail centers. In the new neighborhoods, street lights are only installed at intersections to protect the nighttime views of the starlit sky. Beaumont has also added these new lights to the recently reopened Noble Creek Bridge and plans to install them on the Potrero Bridges, which are currently in progress.
The new round of LED street lighting is part of an ongoing campaign that has made Beaumont one of the “greenest” cities in America. A stretch of Beaumont Avenue from First Street to Oak Valley Parkway Oak will get new street lighting within the next few months to highlight one of the main thoroughfares in town. Finally, the Old Town Street Lighting Project will wrap up by retrofitting Pennsylvania, Palm, Elm, Grace, Fifth, Eleventh and Twelfth streets with new LED lights. This portfolio of energy efficient lighting is one of the largest on the west coast.
Lighting our way
From oil-burning streets lamps to LED lights, we’ve come a long way in lighting up our world. In the 1700s, founding father and inventor Benjamin Franklin had an idea to keep oil-burning street lamps from going dark as soot collected on the glass. Realizing that lack of air flow caused the problem, he devised the idea of four flat panes with a long funnel to draw up smoke and crevices at the bottom to also help smoke escape. Gas-operated street lights appeared in the early 1800s, but lamp lighters still had to go around lighting the lamps at dusk. Electric streetlights debuted in the 1880s, incandescent and fluorescent lights arrived in the 1930s, and mercury vapor lights became widespread in the 1950s. The high-pressure sodium streetlights of the 1970s are still widely used, though light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have recently become energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing alternatives.
Long lasting and energy efficient
LED’s have found widespread use in digital clocks, Christmas lights, flashlights, traffic signals and cell phones. Put simply, an LED produces light when electrons move around within its semiconductor structure. LED street lights also last more than twice as long as high-pressure sodium lights. In Beaumont, the new lights should burn for about 12 ½ years compared to the high-pressure lights that last about 5 ½ years. This means that in addition to paying less for electricity, the City is also spending less on maintenance and equipment costs.
Enjoy the light
So, the next time you’re downtown at night, taking a walk after sundown in a “dark-sky” neighborhood or maybe shopping at one of our new retail centers, let your eyes wander to the new, soft, white light that bathes so much of our hometown and also saves precious energy and natural resources, then gaze to the heavens and see the stars that abound. As a green city, Beaumont is always finding new ways to reduce our carbon footprint and enhance public service to the community.