Hillsboro may spend $9 million upgrading city streetlights to LEDs, a move officials say will save over $500,000 a year in energy and maintenance costs while cutting lighting energy usage by 70 per cent.

The LED installation will be accompanied by a networked node on every utility pole, capable of alerting city employees when a light needs maintenance and which parts are needed.

“We wouldn’t have to wait for a citizen to notify us,” city project manager Tegan Enloe said during a May 2 City Council work session. Currently lights are only fixed when someone calls to report it’s broken. The vast majority of Hillsboro’s 7,300 street lights are maintained by Portland General Electric (PGE), who sometimes take a while to get around to repairs.

“Repairs to lights under PGE can sometimes take up to twelve months,” said Tina Bailey, Senior Program Manager with the City of Hillsboro.

City officials believe the nodes will not only reduce wait times, but also cost the city less money than the current PGE arrangement. Bailey called $200,000 a year in maintenance savings a “conservative estimate.”

Breakdown of current street light ownership and maintenance arrangements

PGE currently owns 1,900 of city street lights; buying those would cost the City of Hillsboro $2 million. The rest of the $9 million price tag is for purchasing and installing new LED fixtures, along with the nodes.

In addition to reducing energy use and maintenance costs, city official believe the conversion will reduce light pollution.

Slight demonstrating how new light fixtures could reduce light polution.

The new LED light fixtures will point light down instead of up, preventing unnecessary light from brightening the night sky.

“This is better for the people in our community, but also better from an energy standpoint,” said Enloe.

Also potentially saving energy are the nodes, which can be programmed to reduce lighting during times of low user. They could even dim when no one is near by, or be turned up during events.

City Council will have to approve the plan before it goes ahead. The group of elected officials seemed broadly enthusiastic, though Councillor Fred Nachtigal repeatedly asked questions related to costs.