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Durham explores LED streetlight conversion

Durham officials are considering entering into a program run by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities to replace the town’s halogen streetlights with more energy efficient LED lights.

An agreement, as described by First Selectman Laura Francis at the regular Dec. 9 Board of Selectmen meeting, would allow the engineering and electronics giant Siemens to study the lights in Durham and commit Durham to using Siemens if the town decides to convert to LED in the next year.

According to Francis, Durham spends approximately $40,000 on energy and maintenance costs for its streetlights yearly.

LED lights use less energy, but produce a better quality light than other energy efficient lights like CFLs. According to Francis, public safety officials generally endorse LED lights in streetlights because the light is clearer.

“CCM is hoping to get enough towns to participate so they reach what they call critical mass to achieve the most savings,” Francis said.

Saving money under the program depends on the bulk power of joining other municipalities for purchasing, energy, and maintenance expenses. LED lights cost significantly more than regular lights, usually requiring towns to make investments before realizing future savings.

Durham has previously explored conversion with a smaller group of towns but could not realize the savings of CCM’s program. “We will never be able to do this on our own,” Francis said. “Even with five towns it was hard for us to get the capital investment down to where it was manageable.”

In theory, the lights will last 20 years. According to a CCM handout, some towns have achieved savings in the range of 54% to 69% in their kilowatt hour consumption.

Durham’s Clean Energy and Sustainability Task Force has approved the program.

The selectmen estimated that Durham has about 400 streetlights. The streetlights are owned by Connecticut Light & Power and the town pays for running them. According to Francis, the conversion could be done in as little as one to two weeks.

Selectman John Szewczyk suggested putting off entering the program until the next meeting and wondered about hidden or future costs and the commitment of signing a letter of intent. “As long as we can say no afterward, I’m fine with it,” Szewczyk said.

“There is nothing here that requires us to go forward with the project. All this agreement says is if we do then we would do it with this program” for the next year, Francis said.

The BOS has scheduled their next meeting on Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall.

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