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As the incandescent light bulb goes the way of the type writer, new technology like LED light bulbs provide a significant savings in electricity and longevity that can add up to big bucks for consumer households and businesses over time. This is especially true for our city municipalities. Each year, as an example, the City of Jacksonville spends approximately $9.3 million dollars for almost 110,000 streetlights that support our City’s roadways. Not only does it cost taxpayers for the electricity used, it also costs us in that these hundred thousand bulbs must be replaced on average of every 3 – 5 years.

In recognizing this opportunity back in February of 2013, the City Council passed Bill 2013-107 that urged the Mayor to investigate the feasibility and cost saving possibilities of converting the City’s streetlights to LED fixtures. The idea was to do this under a performance contract with a private provider who would bear the initial start-up cost of the transition and who also would capitalize the cost of the project over time.

This feasibility study in conjunction with JEA who stepped up to become the private partner was initiated by a pilot study that was implemented right in our Southside backyard of Bayard in the Flager Center on Grand Bay Parkway and Durbin Blvd. This pilot study at a cost of approximately $23,000, replaced the current High Pressure Sodium “HPS” lights with LED’s from multiple manufacturers. The goal of the pilot program is to study the benefits of each of these manufacturers and create a “prove it” evaluation that will be looking at light quality and ease of or lack thereof, installation.

The benefits going into this study are numerous: 1) Energy savings of approx. 50% or less, 2) Long Life of 20+ yrs, with typical warranties on the bulb of 15+ yrs, 3) Reduced maintenance costs, 4) Better light uniformity and distribution with improved color rendition of white light vs. yellow light and 5) the Reduction of CO2 greenhouse emissions. The estimated savings at the onset of this study is approx. $2.7 million per year in just energy costs along.

As an offset to these benefits are factors that include: 1) High initial costs that currently are 3 – 6 times the cost of HPS, 2) Technology that is still evolving and costs likely to decline in future yrs and 3) Insufficient lumens in some cases that might not provide enough light for wide roads or some applications. The estimated cost of replacement is approx. $24 million not taking into account, future cost averaging of the declining expense that could be anticipated.

As a Southside resident, get out one evening and experience this unique opportunity first-hand to see how this new LED technology could benefit our community as a whole. The best route to travel is to turn from US1/Philips Hwy at 9B onto Gran Bay Parkway and travel west toward Baptist Hospital South. Towards the end, the LED lights transition back to the older HPS and at that point, an obvious comparison can be made which I think you will agree, speaks for itself.