At night, motorists driving the high arc of the Maxwell Bridge can feel they are soaring into the starry sky.
That feeling of leaving ordinary Napa behind is now all the greater since the city installed LED streetlights on the span. Their crisp white light contrasts with the soft yellow from the high-pressure sodium streetlights elsewhere in the city.
Using a $100,000 federal grant, the city replaced 148 sodium streetlights earlier this year with energy-efficient LED fixtures, said Phil Brun, deputy director of city Public Works.
Besides the Maxwell Bridge, LED streetlights are whitening the night on Soscol Avenue between Silverado Trail and Lincoln Avenue and on California Boulevard between First Street and Pueblo Avenue, Brun said.
On Tuesday night, the City Council will be asked to commit another $100,000 in federal money to convert another 146 streetlights on major streets: Jefferson Street between Lincoln and Third Street, Trancas Street between Highway 29 and Old Soscol Road and Soscol from Lincoln to Big Ranch Road.
“I call it a whiter, brighter light,” Brun said. “It’s a cleaner light.”
More importantly, the conversion of 294 streetlights should save the city almost $23,000 on its $300,000 annual streetlight electricity bill, said Andrea Fox, the city’s sustainability coordinator.
There’s also a big maintenance payout, said Steve Crego, the city’s electrical superintendent. LED fixtures are supposed to last 10 years, or about 30,000 hours, which is twice as long as today’s high-pressure sodium bulbs, he said.
The white LED streetlights are a return to yesteryear. Before Pacific Gas & Electric installed yellow-glow sodium lamps more than a quarter century ago, Napa had mercury vapor streetlights that burned white, Crego said.
Today, Napa owns its streetlights, having bought them from PG&E in 1985, Crego said.
Napa contracted with PG&E to replace the high-pressure sodium lights. The utility has completed similar projects in 12 cities and is working in 12 more, PG&E spokesperson Katie Romans said Thursday.
LED lights typically use 36 percent less energy and do a better job of focusing their white beam on streets and sidewalks, Romans said. High-pressure sodium lights scatter, creating visual “pollution,” she said.
Napa couldn’t afford to invest in LED fixtures but for a U.S. Department of Energy grant, Brun said. The money is coming from a much larger federal economic recovery allocation of $700,000 to support energy conservation in the city.
The conversion of 294 streetlights is but the start of a long process. The city has some 6,000 streetlights, Crego said.
Streetlights on the city’s thoroughfares consume as much as 400 watts, compared to 70 watts on residential streets, which is why the city is converting lights on major streets first, Crego said.
Using $52,907 in federal money, the city has retrofitted the lights in the Second Street garage, the Las Flores Community Center, Fire Station No. 4 in south Napa and the Corporation Yard. The new bulbs aren’t LED, but they consume less electricity, Fox said.
These building changeovers should reap an annual energy savings of $11,211, Fox said.
In every case, the reduction in energy use means fewer greenhouse gases, which is good for the planet, Fox said.
Napa motorist already have years of LED experience. The city made its traffic signal LED more than a decade ago, Crego said.
Staff will ask the council Tuesday to approve spending $94,898 in additional federal money to swap out old-fashioned lights at other city buildings as well as the Clay and Pearl garages. The annual payback from this investment should be $33,600, Fox estimated.
This spring and summer, Fox will be leading city efforts to create “sustainability plans” for both city properties and the community. Task forces representing assorted interests will develop these plans, she said.
These plans will “create a road map of what we could do” as funds are available, Brun said.
One of her jobs, Fox said, is to find government and private sector grants to help with the greening of Napa.