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LED spells savings for Tarentum

Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch - Pedestrians are guided by Tarentum's new, brighter streetlights as they cross East Fourth Avenue after Wednesday's heavy snowfall on December 26, 2012.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Erica Hilliard  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Pedestrians are guided by Tarentum's new, brighter streetlights as they cross East Fourth Avenue after Wednesday's heavy snowfall on December 26, 2012.
Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch - A man shovels snow at the brightly illuminated intersection of East Fifth Avenue and Lock Street in Tarentum on Wednesday December 26, 2012. The borough installed new, LED lighting earlier this year.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Erica Hilliard  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>A man shovels snow at the brightly illuminated intersection of East Fifth Avenue and Lock Street in Tarentum on Wednesday December 26, 2012. The borough installed new, LED lighting earlier this year.

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When they flipped the switch in August, Tarentum became the first town in the country to convert all of its 431 street lights to new General Electric Lighting Systems' LED lights.

With the new energy efficient LED (light-emitting diode) lights, the borough has reduced its electric expenses by 60 percent, according to Bill Rossey, Tarentum borough manager.

Since the borough is one of only 35 municipalities in the state that owns its own electrical system and fixtures, it was in a good position to make the change, according to Rossey.

“We're basically paying ourselves less now and we don't have to maintain them,” he said.

“For towns that don't own their street lights, it probably is not cost effective.”

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that LED lighting could cut light energy use nearly in half by 2030.

The high-pressure sodium-vapor lights that the borough had been using lasted only three to four years. Plus, the borough had to pay a contractor to replace them at an annual cost of $20,000 to $30,000.

Before the new LED lights, the borough was paying $16,000 to $18,000 a month for street lighting, according to Rossey.

But the new lighting and fixtures changed that pay-out: The borough financed the $250,000 cost for the new lighting fixtures and paid for the financing with the savings in its electric bills.

“The cost of the project is budget neutral,” Rossey said.

The deal was struck when the borough had been trying to land energy grants to pay for replacing the town's street lights.

“G.E. heard and they came to us,” Rossey said.

The energy company conducted an analysis of Tarentum's lighting system and told borough officials that the new light system wouldn't cost them any more money and would save money in the long run.

“It was a no-brainer,” he said. “And it won't cost the borough and people here anything.”

And making the deal more sweet: The borough recently got a grant to install 20 decorative lamp posts for LED lighting in Riverview Memorial Park.

According to Rossey, it will take seven years to pay off the fixtures, which have a life expectancy of 30 years.

Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or mthomas@tribweb.com.

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