Turning our attention towards the LED streetlight project we discussed the conception of the project. Polenske explained to me that this sort of LED technology had been around for nearly a decade. However, the designs that existed then would not have allowed DPW to convert the existing street lamps to LED lights with the same pole locations as the light distribution would not be the same, leading to numerous dark spots on the street. Wanting to avoid having to redesign pole locations across the city, DPW chose to wait until the technology improved. When the technology finally arrived DPW used the LED lights on pavement projects and other small projects to test these new lights, now Polenske believes that DPW is ready for a city-wide LED conversion project.
With the product now available, DPW is hoping to complete the project over the course of the next 6 years, though this timeline is dependent on the City’s budget over this course of time. Polenske told me that DPW split up the city into 6 different areas, with an aim to focus on one area per year. Polenske also informed that coincidentally one of the benefits of this project is that DPW can modernize some of the older circuitry systems in the city that were built around WWII. These older systems cover roughly one-third of the city and fail at an alarming rate. With the start of this project, DPW will be targeting these areas that are susceptible to outages and as they convert to LED lights, they will also be converting the circuit systems.
One of the benefits of these new LED lights is their longer lifespan, with the newer lights having lifespans of 15-20 years, as well as lower cost, saving the City of Milwaukee a considerable amount of money in energy consumption, and repairs. In fact, a benefit of ditching the older HPS lights, as Polenske told me, is that with the money the Department saves from switching to LED lights, DPW can take those funds and use them towards modernizing the city’s circuitry system. Polesnke says that this will help turn the 30-year plan for improving the circuitry system into a more reasonable 15-year plan as DPW is able to ramp up the LED conversion process and utilize the energy savings that come along with it.
Another benefit from this conversion is that there will be greater reliability on the light system. Polenske explained to me that every year as we come out of winter and go through a freeze-thaw cycle, outages become all too prevalent. The older HPS lights did not have the capability of covering these dark spots on a street if a couple of lights went out. With the newer LED lights, which emit a brighter white light, Polenske expects this issue to cease, giving people the comfort of reliable lighting and a sense of safety.