Streetlights hug the side of the Pepperell Mill on Main Street in downtown Biddeford on Friday. The lights may soon be converted to light-emitting diode technology, as the City Council authorized the payment of 37,950.50 to an LED energy company to complete an inventory of the city’s streetlights on Tuesday. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

Streetlights hug the side of the Pepperell Mill on Main Street in downtown Biddeford on Friday. The lights may soon be converted to light-emitting diode technology, as the City Council authorized the payment of 37,950.50 to an LED energy company to complete an inventory of the city’s streetlights on Tuesday. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — The city of Biddeford could soon be both a little brighter and a little greener.

The City Council voted unanimously to authorize an agreement with Real Term Energy US, L.P. on Tuesday, for the evaluation, design and conversion of streetlights and other exterior fixtures from conventional means to light-emitting diode, or LED, technology. Another vote by the council is necessary before the agreement is finalized.

As part of the measure, the council authorized the expenditure of $37,950 to enter into a contract with the energy company to conduct an inventory of the city’s streetlights to prepare to send the project to bid.

The final design, project construction costs, and construction finance details, however, will be presented to the council in a separate order — negotiations with the company are still taking place.

The estimated project cost to convert Biddeford’s 2,450 streetlights and exterior fixtures to LEDs is nearly $1.3 million at $520 per fixture. However, costs are likely to change as the city works to determine the exact LED configuration for each fixture.

LED lights are typically more efficient than traditional incandescent light bulbs, lasting longer and consuming less energy, which can reduce electrical costs over time. City Manager Jim Bennett told the council that, should the lights be converted, they can be expected to last anywhere between 10 to 15 years.

A memo from Chief Operating Officer Brian Phinney estimates a greater than 60 percent reduction in wattage per light fixture if the lights are converted to LEDs.

The agreement comes as part of a collaborative effort between the city and the communities of Falmouth, Rockland, and South Portland to design a program for the replacement of streetlights throughout communities in Maine.

Part of the program’s goal is for the communities to not only convert the streetlights to LEDs, but to also obtain ownership of their community streetlights.

Currently, streetlights are leased as part of a program by Central Maine Power, and costs include electricity supply in addition to lease costs. Converting to LED streetlights will eliminate the lease program cost, therefore reducing supply and delivery costs as wattage decreases.

The city’s annualized electricity streetlight expense, based on the September 2016 electricity bill, is $424,356 for delivery, supply and equipment leasing. Of that amount, $265,927 is for streetlight leasing.

The city estimates it will be able to make a “simple payback” for the project in 4.8 years, a figure obtained by dividing the project cost estimate of $1.3 million by the lease savings of $265,927.

The communities will then be responsible for repair and maintenance of the lights upon assuming ownership.

City Councilor Marc Lessard said he would support the project, however, he wasn’t fond of the idea of the city partially awarding funds to a contractor while the two entities are still in negotiations.

“I just have a fundamental issue whereby we’re announcing we’re not finished negotiations with ‘X, Y, Z’ company, and we’re telling them we’re going to approve the purchase up to a certain amount, and we’re also going to call (them) and negotiate further once we’ve awarded it to (them),” Lessard said. “That makes it really hard to negotiate the best rate that we can, although I know we’ll try really hard.”

Councilor Michael Swanton said he fully intended to support the project given its savings potential.

Mayor Alan Casavant said Friday he believes the switch to LEDs is a good move for the city given recent advances in the technology.

“The cost of streetlights is quite a lot, and anytime we can generate a savings it’s a lot better,” Casavant said. “I think the technology has improved quite a bit and is worth investing in.”

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]


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