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September 24, 2016
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Sustainable street lighting; Coming to a street near you?

New street lights in Roscoe, NY.
Contributed photo

SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — Three towns in Sullivan County have signed the Climate Smart Community Pledge, a partnership between local and state governments with a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They are Town of Tusten, Town of Lumberland and Town of Delaware. The Climate Action Plan (CAP) Advisory Board is a citizens’ advisory group formed by a Sullivan County legislative resolution. Its purpose is to generate a greenhouse gas inventory for the county and to make specific recommendations in the form of a Climate Action Plan to assist the county in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. The first such topic they are addressing is lighting. They want to change street lighting to more energy efficient street fixtures; an initiative that Roscoe has already undertaken.

The downtown area of Roscoe is now shining with new lights that are an energy efficient upgrade from the previous outdated lights, according to Roscoe resident Pat Pomeroy. She said funding for the lights came from Sullivan Renaissance, the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce and grants, specifically the Golden Feather Grant and the Ultimate Fishing Town award. Roscoe, however, did not go for the most efficient alternative currently available, LED lights, because it did not feel they are worth their higher cost.

The question of “to LED or not to LED” is one that a number of towns are grappling with, because they are more expensive than other types of lights. Larry Richardson of the CAP Advisory Board has led the task force research on the subject so far. He wears many hats in addition to his CAP board membership, including being a councilman for the Town of Cochecton, a representative on the Upper Delaware Council and the vice president of Yaun Company, Inc. in Liberty, a wholesale distributor for heating and plumbing supplies. Richardson is an advocate of energy efficient lighting, saying it is cost efficient and good for the environment.

Richardson found high pressure sodium lighting to be an attractive and less expensive alternative to LED lighting. He says that if a town wants to switch to high pressure sodium lighting they must file a request with NYSEG and they will do an audit and an estimate. If the town wants to upgrade to LED lights, they must file a request with NYSEG and they will provide an estimate to disconnect the service and remove the existing fixtures. The town would then pay an independent contractor to make the installations. The town would be responsible for the cost of the fixtures and the charge from NYSEG to disconnect the power and reconnect the power when the install is complete. (For more information and the estimated costs, see the sidebar.)

Even though LEDs are more costly, Richardson says it’s worth it. “It could be pricey to make a complete jump to LED, but you get a huge savings down the road. Those lights last forever.” Richardson wants to get the information about energy efficient lighting out there and encourages municipalities to think about it.

After hearing Richardson’s research, Town of Lumberland supervisor and CAP board member Nadia Rajsz wants to start looking into alternative light sources for her town. The route she is going for is solar-powered lights. She says that right now she is in the information-gathering phase and is looking into the cost. She says she wants to find the best lighting for the least amount of money for the taxpayer.

Stephen Stuart is the co-executive director of Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development. SASD is supplying technical assistance for the Tusten Energy Survey, part of a town-wide initiative to improve energy efficiency and to reduce energy costs in homes, businesses and in-town operations. In 2012, Tusten became the first town in Sullivan County to join Climate Smart Community Pledge. Stuart says they will use the results from the survey to make a plan to lower greenhouse gas emissions. One of the ways to do that could be energy efficient street lighting. Stuart says the Town of Tusten uses $15,000 a year to light its streets, and switching to LED lights could cut that cost in half.

Stuart cited a program of the U.S. Department of Energy as a way for towns to gather more information on LED lighting. The program is called the Municipal Solid State Lighting Consortium, and its purpose is to share technical information and experiences related to LED street and area lighting demonstrations. It serves as an objective resource for evaluating new products on the market intended for street and area lighting applications. Cities, power providers and others who invest in street and area lighting are invited to join the consortium. Find out more at

The idea to bring energy efficient light fixtures to the area is just that—an idea. It’s a work-in-progress initiative by committees like CAP to give people background, let them know what’s going on, and provide some technical information that could prove useful in municipal decision-making. Your street may soon shine with the light of sustainability.