Rifle lighting up downtown with efficient LED street lights

Rifle LED streetlightWhen it came time for necessary maintenance on the 1980s-era street lamps in downtown Rifle, city officials decided to create an energy-saving demonstration project using LED street lights.

With help from a $30,000 grant from the Garfield New Energy Communities Initiative awarded in 2009, the city contracted with workers and suppliers in Garfield County to upgrade 23 street lamps in downtown Rifle to use LED, or light-emitting diode, bulb technology.

Mike Braaten, Rifle’s government affairs and energy coordinator, said LED street lamps have been installed in larger communities across the country but not in many smaller communities. So even before the energy-saving data was available this fall, Braaten was receiving calls from other folks across Colorado curious about the results from the Rifle installation.

Comparing utility bill information from September 2008 against September 2009, Braaten found the LED lights used 64 percent less energy, saving 544 kilowatt hours of electricity per month. Each street lamp was changed from 150-watt high-pressure sodium bulbs to an array of 40 small 1.25-watt LED bulbs.

Rifle LED streetlights at nightConsidering various factors, Braaten estimates the operating costs for the street lamps was reduced by 55 percent. The long-lasting LED bulbs also should cut down on future maintenance costs for the city.

The street lamp project in Rifle was more complicated and expensive since many parts of the older lamps needed upgrading. To complete the project, the Rifle Downtown Development Authority and the Rifle Lodging Tax Board provided $6,000 in additional funding. Third Street now sports a five-block section with uniform, fully functional and bright white lights in a key shopping and dining area in downtown.

Braaten said the project would not have been possible without the Garfield NECI funding provided in a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. He recommends the street lamp LED-retrofits for municipalities that own many street lamps that would not need major overhaul work to install the energy-efficient LED bulb arrays.

“Because our lights were old and needed significant maintenance improvements anyway, about half the cost was to retrofit the bulb assembly,” Braaten said. “For the most part, the outcome has been positive. This project meets the principles the city is moving toward as an energy village, promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.”

-- Story by Suzie Romig, photos by Jen Sanborn