Xcel plan would switch 100K street lights to LED bulbs

Xcel Energy said Thursday it wants to change out 100,000 street lights and install new LED bulbs.

The plan calls for replacing the traditional "cobra head" street lamps with light emitting diode fixtures. Xcel says the new fixtures produce more light per watt, use less power, need less maintenance and their light is a whiter color, closer to natural daylight.

The company said it needs approval from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which regulates electric service providers.

An Xcel official expects the cost of the switch to LEDs would be built into electrical rates. Regional vice president Laura McCarten said the "tariff" that is charged to cities where the company has streetlights could fall, "the net result is that every month, the cities where we have these street lights will have a 4 to 5 percent reduction in what they pay for the LED streetlights."

Xcel tested the new lights with a 537-fixture conversion in West St. Paul in 2013. Officials there said it appeared to improve night visibility without spilling into yards or homes.

"The results from that pilot showed about a 42 percent reduction in energy use by those LED street lights, as compared to the high pressure sodium units that are more or less the standard today," said McCarten. She said the longer-lasting lights would also save on maintenance costs.

The conversion is expected to take about five years, and would be rolled out in cooperation with about 200 Minnesota cities where Xcel provides street lights — which includes Minneapolis, but not St. Paul, where the city owns and maintains the street lights.

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