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LED streetlights could illuminate 16 ND cities, Xcel says

BISMARCK - Energy-efficient LED lights could illuminate streets in more than a dozen North Dakota cities with an overall cost savings to customers, Xcel Energy says.

BISMARCK – Energy-efficient LED lights could illuminate streets in more than a dozen North Dakota cities with an overall cost savings to customers, Xcel Energy says.

The state Public Service Commission is considering a request from Xcel to add an LED option to its street lighting service in North Dakota, and to increase its streetlight tariff to compensate for the switch to more expensive LED, or light-emitting diode, streetlights.

But customers should see an overall reduction in what they pay for LED streetlights because of they use less power, Xcel says. The estimated annual savings is $5.47 to $8.97 per customer depending on the streetlight’s wattage.

Xcel owns a total of 3,479 streetlights in 16 North Dakota cities – including Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot and West Fargo – that could potentially be converted to LED if those cities decide to adopt the technology, Xcel senior regulatory consultant David Sederquist said.

“We’ve gotten good, positive comments from cities,” he said.

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Cities pay the tariff and pass the cost onto customers through taxes. The nearly 3,500 lights owned by Xcel represents about a quarter of the total streetlights in those service areas, with the cities generally owning the rest, Sederquist noted.

“It’s not going to necessarily mean that every streetlight’s getting changed,” he said.

Xcel officials say the LEDs offer a better quality of light and nighttime visibility for drivers and motorists. They also turn on instantly and don’t need to warm up, require less maintenance and provide more directional lighting, cutting down on light pollution of the night sky, said Bob Schommer, Xcel’s project manager for LED streetlights.

Xcel estimates the LED lights will last 15 to 20 years, or about three times longer than high-pressure sodium streetlights that must be replaced every five to six years, Schommer said.

In its filing with the PSC, Xcel said the tariff request came in response to increasing customer interest for LED streetlights after a pilot project implemented in 2012 in West St. Paul, Minn.

“While LED streetlights have been available for some time, until recently the price and efficiency were not cost-competitive with current rate options,” the company stated.

Xcel also has done LED pilot projects in Denver, Colo., and Amarillo, Texas. It started rolling out LED streetlights this fall in western Wisconsin, with 2,500 installed so far, Schommer said.

Public Service Commission chairwoman Julie Fedorchak said she plans to support the request, and she predicted that some communities will take advantage of the option. She said she expects to see similar tariff requests from Montana-Dakota Utilities and Otter Tail Power in the future.

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Xcel says the majority of its streetlights in North Dakota could be converted to LED within the next five years.

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