The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

January 6, 2013

Waseca tries LEDs on for size

WASECA — The success of the city of Waseca’s experiment with new street light technology might be measured by what people aren’t saying about it.

“There have been some random comments, but nothing negative,” Utilities Department Director Carl Sonnenberg said of a pilot project “covertly” begun last spring.

Eight light emitting diode (LED) street lights were installed unannounced along Seventh Avenue. Sonnenberg said he did so without publicity to get a true gauge of public perception.

“It’s a well-traveled area of town, and there’s enough of them there so people could notice a difference.”

He said the dearth of naysaying about the whiteish-blue hues of the LEDs will result in the installation of six more along adjoining Elm Avenue West.

Waseca and other cities are undertaking these pilot projects in anticipation of eventual larger-scale changeovers to LED street lighting.

LED’s advantages over incandescent and fluorescent lighting include longer lifespans and 40-60 percent less energy use.

The current downside is their initial cost, which is more than double that of traditional lighting.

But as costs continue to come down and technology improves, LEDs figure to become standard for municipal lighting applications, Sonnenberg said.

The great unknown at this point is whether they can live up to the long lifespans that manufacturers tout.

“Since they haven’t been around for 20 years, you don’t know if they’ll last 20 years.”

The city purchased lights for the project through an LED lighting manufacturer’s buy one, get one free program.

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