Town gears up for energy savings

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury officials are working with Central Vermont Public Service Corp. (CVPS) and Efficiency Vermont to replace around 470 light fixtures throughout town with a more energy-efficient variety that could save the community around $20,000 per year on its electricity bill.
At issue are the wooden pole-mounted light fixtures in town that operate with mercury, metal halide or sodium vapor technology. All are antiquated, more expensive to operate and contribute to an annual Middlebury street lighting bill of about $100,000, according to Town Manager Bill Finger.
Instead, Middlebury wants to take advantage of a new program through CVPS and Efficiency Vermont calling for replacement of the antiquated fixtures with LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights that illuminate more efficiently and cost-effectively, according to Finger.
“LEDs generate more light for less watts,” Finger said. “They are cheaper to operate.”
The plan does not include the new downtown light fixtures at the new roundabout and on the Cross Street Bridge, which already use energy efficient technology, Finger said.
Middlebury is in line to receive full funding for fixtures that have been fully depreciated — at least five years old, according to current CVPS policy, noted Finger. A lesser reimbursement rate comes for fixtures that aren’t fully depreciated.
Finger has recommended that the town replace all the old fixtures with the new LED variety, which would be leased from CVPS for a daily charge that covers operation and maintenance.
Middlebury officials are also considering taking on ownership of the lights, although that would require full responsibility for maintenance. That would mean either having an electrician on staff (with lift truck) to troubleshoot and perform regular maintenance, or contract those functions out to a private entity.
“Our gut analysis is that gearing up to provide maintenance services would cost more in the long run than continuing to lease from CVPS,” Finger said in a written opinion to the selectboard. “Efficiency Vermont will assist us in making a real analysis. If a real cost saving can be demonstrated by owning the fixtures, it should certainly be considered by the town.”
If all proceeds smoothly, crews will begin swapping out the old fixtures for LEDs as soon as January, with completion as early as June 30, 2012, according to Finger.
Steve Costello, spokesman for CVPS, said the state’s largest utility is seeking to have LED fixtures on all the light poles in its service area within the next four years.
“This has a lot of great benefits,” he said. “It will reduce energy consumption, significantly cut glare and upward light diffusion, and provide a much better quality of light — brighter and whiter — than most of the lights previously available.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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