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Albany Starts Installation Of LED Streetlights

Jesse King
The city of Albany is partnering with the New York Power Authority to implement the "Smart Street Lighting NY" program.

The city of Albany has begun converting more than 10,000 streetlights to LEDs in an effort to become more energy efficient. 

The $20 million upgrade is financed and implemented by the New York Power Authority as part of Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “Smart Street Lighting NY” program. Speaking outside Swinburne Park in the city’s West Hill on Wednesday, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan says the new lights will not only reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions (by more than 2,800 metric tons a year), but its energy bill, too.

“After this conversion is completed, we are estimating we will save approximately half a million dollars annually over the first 10 years, as we pay for the purchase and financing," says Sheehan. "And after that we will save, we believe, more than $3 million annually in reduced energy and maintenance costs.”

Sheehan says the program to convert the 10,800 lights can also help make some neighborhoods safer, by improving lighting across the city and eliminating “environmental factors that criminals exploit.” She says the LEDs will first be installed in West Hill, the South End, and Arbor Hill.

“Between the new camera system being deployed this year, and our new modern LED lights, which will allow us to expand public safety options, we are going to be able to enhance safety in neighborhoods across the city," she explains. 

Credit Jesse King / WAMC
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan says the lights will first be installed in West Hill, the South End, and Arbor Hill.

NYPA President and CEO Gil Quiniones says he’d like to see more cities follow Albany’s lead. Not only are the LED lights 50-60 percent more efficient and longer lasting, but they come with a management system allowing the city to “dim” them as needed, and monitor outages. Quiniones says they also act as a power source, with sockets capable of hosting a variety of sensors. 

“So for example, you can put sensors that monitor air quality, you can put sensors that monitor ice and snow, you can put sensors that monitor traffic flow — you can put cameras for security purposes," he notes. "And those types of sensors can then bring data and information so that the various departments can become more effective and efficient.”

He adds NYPA is providing the city with an $850,000 grant to explore such add-ons, including Wi-Fi. And with the country preparing for 5G wireless networks, Quiniones says the lights can help there, too.

“When that rolls out, they require smaller antennas, but they have to be closer to each other. So light fixtures and utility poles are going to be the infrastructure," he explains. "And we will…help Albany map out its plan when all the 5G providers are ready to roll that technology out here.”

Overall, Sheehan and Quiniones say the upgrade is a small example of city and state efforts to combat climate change and promote equity.

“If we could save dollars to taxpayers, if we could make sure we have adequate lighting in all of our communities, and if we can make sure that, when Wi-Fi and 5G technologies are rolled out, that it will blanket all neighborhoods, and everybody will have equal opportunity to experience that increase in quality of life – that’s what this is all about," Quiniones says. "That’s what equity means.”

The “Smart Street Lighting NY” program aims to replace 500,000 streetlights for LEDs statewide. So far, NYPA has installed more than 128,000 LED lights across the state. 

Jesse King is the host of WAMC's national program on women's issues, "51%," and the station's bureau chief in the Hudson Valley. She has also produced episodes of the WAMC podcast "A New York Minute In History."