A Southeast Examiner reader recently wrote asking if we had done a story about LED streetlights. Instead of focusing on the eventual savings to the City, like many of the previous articles he had read, he was more concerned about finding out  about the environmental friendliness of the new lights.

According to the Earth Island Journal, exposure to blue-rich light at night can lead to decreased melatonin secretion in humans and also disrupt natural sleeping and eating patterns in wildlife. Also, those lights can be offensively bright.

Diane Dulken, Media Relations, Portland Bureau of Transportation, said the blue light was an issue early on with LED technology. The color has evolved over time and LEDs today do not have that same issue of harshness older LEDs had.

“Since Portland wasn’t one of the first cities to convert to LEDs, we have the advantage of the latest technology. The city will use white lit, clear lights.” An example of the lighting can be seen in the Lents area where the first streetlights are being upgraded to LEDs.

Portland Bureau of Transportation owns approximately 55,000 streetlights and the majority of the them are called “cobrahead” lights using high-pressure sodium bulbs. These lights work well, but are costly to maintain because bulbs needs replacing every five years.

In contrast, LED streetlights are estimated to need replacing every 20 years. Sodium bulbs use more electricity than LEDs. A typical LED streetlight pays for itself in six to eight years by reducing the power bill.

Instead of replacing all of Portland’s streetlights this year, the city is going to get the most out of its current lights by letting them burn out before replacing them. Full replacement is expected to take five years.

Once the cobrahead lights are replaced, PBT will begin looking at the 4,800 decorative lights we see downtown and in other districts to see how they can be converted as well.

If you are business owner interested in LED bulb options there is a PGE Energy Champions Workshop June 4 from 12:30 to 5 pm at Portland’s World Trade Center. This hands-on training is free to PGE customers and could help you become more energy efficient.NT