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LED street lights get go-ahead

Posted on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm


Erin McCullough


The City of Tullahoma will officially begin preparations to make a switch to LED street lighting following a unanimous vote of the board of mayor and aldermen during the regular meeting on March 13.

In October, Brian Coate, Tullahoma Utilities Authority (TUA) vice president of fiber operations, and Brian Skelton, president of TUA, gave a presentation to a board study session explaining the benefits of converting the city’s street lighting from high pressure sodium (HPS) lighting to light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, which included a significant savings on kilowatt hour usage, longer bulb life and the ability to better direct light flow onto needed areas.

Several city officials, including members of the board of mayor and aldermen and TUA officials, took a trip to McMinnville, whose city board recently made the same conversion in lighting, to see how the lights work compared to that of the current HPS in Tullahoma.

Seeing significant benefits to making the switch, the board voted unanimously to authorize the conversion.

According to a memo sent by Mayor Lane Curlee to the board on March 9, TUA plans to request grant funding from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in order to offset costs of the depreciation balance on the current HPS lights.

The city will also make a “minimum capital contribution” of $100,000 from reserves, subject to budget approval, in order to pay for a portion of the installation costs.

According to the same memo, the city currently pays $37,583 per month to the TUA for city street lighting. That cost is based on a TVA formula that provides for maintenance and replacement of the fixtures.

The specific grant TUA will apply for is a “Community Energy Efficiency” grant, according to Coate.

“We think it’s probably going to be $50,000 to $60,000, and that’s an estimate,” he said.

“It’s based on the number of kilowatt hours reduced and the number of fixtures we have of each various wattage. The bigger fixtures we take down will have more kwh savings.”

The city currently has a balance of $63,000 in undepreciated light fixtures, but Coate said with the grant money they’re seeking and the city’s capital contribution, there should be a “minimal at best” impact on the city’s monthly payment to TUA for lighting services.

TUA estimates that the full conversion can be completed in as little as 18 months, according to the memo.

That conversion could happen as early as July 1, according to Coate, who said that TUA is just waiting for the new fixtures to arrive.

“Realistically, I’m thinking we can start by July 1, but if we get the fixtures earlier, we’ll start then.”

The anticipated fiscal impact of the conversion is that the total cost of the project eventually will be offset by a 46-percent savings in energy usage.

Taking into account the $100,000 capital contribution, the city would realize a $2,000-per month savings with the new lights.

Just before the vote took place, Curlee said that he was excited for the conversion to happen.

“This continues to position our community as a more and more green community,” he said. “We think with the TVA rebate that we’re looking for and the partnership with the city that their monthly rate will stay the same.”

Erin McCullough may be reached via email at tnrept09@lcs.net.