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Downtown lights ready to go LED, wireless

June 30, 2010 - Thanks to approvals granted last week by the village council and Downtown Development Authority, history's about to be made as downtown Oxford's decorative street lights are retrofitted with energy-efficient LED technology controlled by radio frequencies.

"As far as we know, (Oxford) will be the first city to do a citywide installation of an LED system, with a full wireless control system, in North America," said Mike McClear, chief executive officer of Relume Technologies, the Oxford-based company providing the lights and wireless system. "There are a number of other cities that have done pilot programs with wireless lighting control systems, but this is the first city in North America that's doing a full citywide installation."

The $60,000 project will be paid for using a $25,000 Urban Revitalization 3.0 Grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The grant requires a local match of $35,000, which is being paid by the DDA.

In return for financing the project, the DDA will be reimbursed by receiving 100 percent of the energy savings until the $35,000 is repaid. After that, 50 percent of the energy savings will be deducted from the amount the DDA is charged for services from the village's Department of Public Works.

The project involves replacing the downtown's 83 metal halide (HID) decorative street lamps along Washington (M-24) and Burdick streets with LED (Light-emitting Diode) fixtures.

"This is where we live and this is our hometown, so we're excited to partner with the village," McClear said. "It's going to be a showcase for the village. It's going to be a showcase for our company. I think it's consistent with the environmental and sustainability efforts the village is trying to promote. I think it's a good thing for everybody concerned."

McClear indicated the plan is to have all of the LED fixtures installed by the end of July, then hook up the wireless control system later this year.

According to documentation submitted to the state, "The existing HID lamps consume approximately 215 watts of electricity. The new LED lighting product will consume less than 100 watts, resulting in an energy savings of greater than 50 percent. This will reduce the Village of Oxford's energy consumption by 40,000 kilowatt hours per year, with an annual savings of $4,000 in energy costs."

The village will also save on maintenance costs with LED lamps which typically last 17.5 years versus HID lamps that typically last 2.5 years. Because they contain solid state components, LED fixtures "are difficult to damage with external shock."

"These characteristics will result in the LED lamps being virtually maintenance free for the first 15 years after installation," according to documentation submitted to the state.

Right now, the village spends about $5,000 annually in maintenance costs associated with replacing HID lights.

It's been estimated the LED lights will save the village more than $3,000 annually in maintenance costs.

Relume is charging the village $487 for each LED fixture plus $235 for each decorative acrylic globe.

The one thing the village won't be paying for is the wireless system that will control the lights. Back in February, Relume agreed to donate the system to the village at no charge.

Dubbed the Sentinel Wireless Lighting Control System, the Relume product 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.

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.

It's estimated the wireless control system will reduce the village's energy consumption by an additional 25 percent.

Relume's donation of the Sentinel system is valued at $26,985, which includes $10,800 for the system's municipal base station plus $16,185 for the 83 radio transceivers.

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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