Idea to turn off some streetlamps not so bright after all

Lights along Riverside Parkway.

Grand Junction city officials thought they had a bright idea about how to save money: turn off some of the city’s approximately 5,000 streetlights.

The provider and servicer of the city’s streetlights, however, said it’s not that simple, and the city finds itself needing to leave the lights on to avoid spending more money than it would save.

Streetlights and the energy used to power the bulbs are provided under a service contract with Xcel Energy and cost the city about $1.3 million a year.

City officials would like to reduce those costs, possibly by darkening streetlights in some areas, but that prospect is not cost-effective under the Xcel contract.

According to Xcel spokesman Fred Eggleston, per the company’s liability policy, if the city wanted some lights darkened, the energy company would have to remove the lights.

The city pays $15 per month for service on each light. The cost to remove one light would exceed $15 a month for two years, Grand Junction City Manager Laurie Kadrich said.

“If we want to install meters or buy all the lights, the costs of that would outweigh the savings,” Kadrich said.

City officials asked Xcel about darkening some streetlights after learning Colorado Springs realized substantial savings by darkening one-third of its streetlights.

Unlike Grand Junction, the Front Range city benefits from having a municipal utility, Colorado Springs Utilities.

Grand Junction city officials are in negotiations with Xcel to renew a streetlight-services contract, and the price tag is likely to be higher than the $1.3 million the city had been paying because energy costs are on the rise, Kadrich said.

One bright spot for the city should be the replacement of 305 bulbs along the Riverside Parkway. The previous metal-halide bulbs had a life span of less than two years and continued to burn out faster than crews could replace them, Eggleston said.

Xcel crews were not familiar with working on those lights and wished the city had chosen different lights, Eggleston said, but “the architect liked the look of them, and we accepted them.”

After complaints in the past year of numerous burned-out lights along the parkway, Xcel recently installed longer-lasting metal-halide lights that are supposed to last for five years.

“Normally we would have billed the city, but we decided to pay for it ourselves,” Eggleston said of the replacement project, which cost $75,000. “Part of it is the financial situation of the city right now.”


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