When Roscoe Slade heard the sales pitch for a new streetlighting system, the public works director of West Richland, Wash., thought it sounded too good to be true. But the timing was right. Slade’s department had been looking for a less expensive way to light the city’s streets, as the energy and maintenance costs of its 1,097 high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights accounted for 20% of the street maintenance budget.

Since adopting a greenhouse gas emission reduction policy in 2010, the city of 14,000 residents was also committed to making environmentally responsible infrastructure improvements.

“We’d been working with our power provider, Benton Rural Electric Association (Benton REA), to make a change that would make sense for the city and also direct more money back into our streets program,” says Slade. “We knew the best approach was through energy savings, but lighting technology has been changing quickly and we wanted to be sure we made the right choice.”

The answer came from Fritz Feiten, manager of business development for the northwest region of Ameresco, an energy service company that specializes in solving energy challenges. Streetlight conversion projects are a major part of the company’s business and Ameresco is currently helping dozens of cities install 100,000 energy-efficient lights.

Feiten estimated West Richland could reduce its streetlight energy consumption by more than 60% and save approximately $65,000 a year by switching to LED.

“I was skeptical when he said the energy savings would be enough to pay for the project,” says Slade. But Ameresco conducted a preliminary energy audit at no cost to the city that supported the figures.

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