Concerns about light pollution and energy savings prompt Portland, Maine to adopt IDA-Approved Dark Sky Friendly lighting fixtures.
Portland, the largest city in the state of Maine, recently began replacing its old streetlights with IDA-Approved Dark Sky fixtures. The project will be implemented in two phases and began during the last week of January with the replacement of cobra head streetlights. According to an article in Mainebiz, “Crews will be working their way around the city, installing 250 lights to 350 lights per week with an estimated completion in May.”1 In the second phase, the city will convert lights on pedestrian scale poles to LED. Phase two is expected to begin this summer, after the city identifies appropriate fixtures for historical pedestrian scale areas.
A News Flash on the city’s website explains, “The project is made possible by the City’s recent acquisition of the streetlights from Central Maine Power. Portland is the first city in Maine to do so under the provisions of a state law enacted in 2013 that allows municipalities to purchase utility-owned street lighting equipment in their communities and to replace it with energy efficient LED lighting.”2 The project is expected to save taxpayers over $1 million a year.
The new lights are not only more economical to operate, they are also better for the environment, benefitting nocturnal wildlife and dark sky enthusiasts. Troy Moon, Portland’s Sustainability Coordinator, said that many of the residents in the city are concerned about light pollution, and that there are many advantages to the new LED lighting. While cost savings are key, Moon says, “This would not truly be an environmentally friendly program unless we considered all aspects of the project.”
Portland evaluated several streetlight choices, and ultimately decided to purchase Cree brand fixtures that are on IDA’s list of “IDA-Approved Dark Sky Friendly” lights. Moon had learned about the work of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) at a meeting of the Urban Sustainability Directors Network. A small group within that network was working on LED streetlights and hosted a presentation by IDA staff over a year ago.
According to Portland’s project update webpage, “The lights installed will produce light at 3000K, which is a warm, yellow light similar to what comes from the high-pressure sodium lights they will replace.”3 Moon says that choosing fixtures designed to reduce light pollution was a priority for Portland’s residents, and that when people first heard about the project, he received many calls from concerned residents. He was happy to tell callers that proactive planning had occurred, and that the city had built environmentally friendly lighting into the project plans from the beginning.
Portland also built advanced controls into the new fixtures, which will allow the city to dim the lights on a soon-to-be-determined schedule. Moon mentioned that the city of Cambridge, MA, has established protocols for dimming its streetlights, and that Portland intends to learn from what has worked in Cambridge. Portland’s project update webpage says, “In residential neighborhoods the streetlights will be set at approximately 70% output during the evening but will roll back to between 30% – 50% output during the overnight…Implementing this type of control system will put Portland at the forefront of municipal lighting technology.”
This project is the result of the collective efforts of many people in Maine, including the Town Manager of Falmouth, who worked for years with the state legislature to change the law that made these improvements possible. After the change to state law was enacted in 2013, Falmouth’s Town Manager, Nathan Poore, conducted workshops for local communities, including neighboring Portland. Many businesses located in Maine will be involved in Portland’s streetlight conversion project, a source of pride for Portland’s City Manager, Jon Jennings.
As the IDA website says on the “Lighting for Policy Makers” page, “The good news is that your municipality can have it all – environmentally responsible lighting that helps keep citizens safe.” With their multimillion-dollar streetlight replacement project, Portland is proving that this statement is true.
- Portland to save $1M annually by switching to LED streetlights. (2018) Mainebiz. Retrieved 2/22/18 from http://www.mainebiz.biz/article/20180131/NEWS01/180139990
- Coming to Your Neighborhood: Increased Efficiency and Safety. (2018). Retrieved 2/22/18 from https://www.portlandmaine.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=3159
- LED Streetlight Conversion & Smart City Project. Retrieved 2/22/18 from https://www.portlandmaine.gov/2149/LED-Streetlight-Conversion