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Relume donates wireless system for street lights

February 10, 2010 - A local company is going to give the Village of Oxford a gift worth $50,000 and all the community has to do in return is be a test site for one of its new products.

On Tuesday night, the village council voted 5-0 to accept the Oxford-based Relume Technologies' offer to install its new Sentinel Wireless Lighting Control System free of charge. The system will operate the downtown area's 78 ornamental street lights during a 90-day test period

"Thank you for using us as your test village," said village President Teri Stiles. "I think it's terrific."

"It would definitely be something very good for the (village)," said Relume CEO Mike McClear.

Transceivers will be placed in each of the lights so as to allow them to be controlled and monitored using secure, FCC-allocated, public safety radio frequencies. The system would either get its own frequency or share one with noncritical municipal services.

According to McClear, the Sentinel system will allow the village to not only turn the lights on and off, but also meter their power, report outages and other problems, and dim them, a feature that is presently not available with the existing system.

"It's a very flexible system. It's leading-edge technology," said Steve Fister, of Relume Technologies. Being able to dim the street lights could result in a significant cost savings for the village.

"At certain times of the night, let's say weekdays from midnight till 5 a.m., you could turn them to half-power and save half the energy during that time period, which could be significant literally thousands of dollars over the year," McClear told this reporter.

Based on an earlier survey of the village's street lights, assuming the lamps were dimmed to 50 percent of their normal intensity for 50 percent of the time, the municipality would save approximately $3,200 annually once the Sentinel system is installed, according to an e-mail from McClear.

Councilman Dave Bailey asked if it would be possible to have it where, with the push of a button, the system is able to turn off "every other lamp" in the middle of the night.

"The system has that capability," Fister said. "We can do that."

"I think that would be so cool," Bailey replied. "It's just so much of a waste at 3 a.m. to have all those lights on. You could probably get away with one quarter of them on at that time because there's no traffic, no pedestrians crossing the street. And as an amateur astronomer, I like dark sky."

Oxford would be one of two test communities for the Sentinel system. The other is Ann Arbor.

"We're at the point that we'd like to do Beta testing, which is actually real-world (testing); put it up on the street and see how it performs," Fister said.

In Oxford, Relume will test how the Sentinel system works controlling high intensity discharge (HID) street lights, which is a catchall term for traditional lamps such as metal halide, high-pressure sodium and mercury vapor.

"This will be the first community in the world that has this fully-wireless control system to control their HID lights," McClear said.

In Ann Arbor, Relume will test how the Sentinel system performs operating 50 of the city's light-emitting diode (LED) street lights, previously installed by the Oxford company.

According to McClear, the test period in Oxford should last about 90 days. The target date for installation of the Sentinel system is April 1 and it would take about a week to do.

Once the three-month test period is over, the village gets to keep the system valued at a little more than $50,000 free of charge.

"We don't have any plans of taking it down," McClear told this reporter.

Should the village ever convert its downtown street lights to LED fixtures, McClear said the Sentinel system can be easily upgraded to accommodate the change.

Unfortunately, the village was recently notified that its application was rejected for a $90,000 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant to upgrade its 78 downtown street lights to LED fixtures controlled by a wireless system.

Part of that rejected grant application included an additional $50,000 for pedestrian crossing signals where the Polly Ann Trail intersects W. Burdick and W. Drahner.

However, council voted 3-2 Tuesday night to apply for an Urban Revitalization 3.0 grant to pay for just the 78 LED lights.

If received, the grant would mean $25,000 for the project, but require $35,000 in matching funds from the village.

As part of their approval, council plans to ask the Downtown Development Authority to participate in the funding.

The grant normally requires a 50/50 local match, but because the process is very competitive and there's only $400,000 available, the village opted to raise its match by $10,000 making its contribution 58 percent in the hopes of increasing the probability of being awarded the money.

McClear indicated converting the village's 78 street lights to LED would save approximately $8,200 annually not including savings from the Sentinel system.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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