Pittsfield joins Dalton in taking leap to LED streetlights

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It's light, for less. That's been the argument for years to trade high-pressure sodium streetlights for a penny-pinching light source introduced in the 1960s.

In the next three months, Pittsfield will take the LED leap, replacing more than 5,000 old fixtures with light-emitting diodes.

The town of Dalton is also in the midst of replacing 720 streetlights, in work that began last week and will run through January.

In Pittsfield, an electrical contractor from Wakefield will replace fixtures at a rate of about 80 a day, realizing a capital improvement goal Mayor Linda Tyer tackled early in her administration. Two fiscal years back, the City Council OK'd borrowing of $3 million for the lighting project.

The state Department of Energy Resources is funding roughly one-third of the cost.

Pittsfield officials have calculated that savings on electricity costs will enable the community to recoup its investment in seven to nine years.

In addition to saving as much as a quarter million dollars a year on power, the new units are said to increase public safety by providing "improved illumination and reliability," as the mayor's office put it in a budget plan.

Pine Ridge Technologies Inc. won the bid to install new fixtures in both Pittsfield and Dalton. According to bid documents submitted to the state, the company anticipates placing 5,496 new devices in Pittsfield.

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The work will also upgrade lights outside schools and in parking lots. All of the work in Pittsfield is due to be finished by the end of March.

City Engineer Ricardo Morales has said four crews will be deployed, starting in neighborhoods west of downtown.

The new fixtures that will go up around the city range from the workhorse "Cobrahead" unit to more decorative pieces, including four described as a "tear drop pendant" style.

In 2017, the city tested the effectiveness of two LED streetlights in the Tyler Street area. Pine Ridge also handled that installation. The company's president is Michael Rocca; the foreman on the Pittsfield and Dalton installation projects will be Jim Morris, according to Pine Ridge's filing with the state.

In addition to bringing new light to two Berkshire County communities, Pine Ridge will provide labor for conversions in Williamsburg, in Hampshire County, and in Sunderland, in Franklin County.

The company's application to the state noted that in 2017, it provided streetlight and signal improvement and maintenance services to Pittsfield at a cost of $426,094.

In Dalton, the LED conversion is expected to save $39,413 a year on electricity costs — and cut carbon emissions by 100,000 pounds a year, according to Town Manager Kenneth Walto. The community has typically spent $80,000 a year to power the old-style streetlights.

Walto said that in addition to saving money, the LED lights are able to distribute illumination more precisely, improving visibility for those getting around in the dark. The devices minimize "light trespass," he said, a term used to describe light that falls where it isn't wanted.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.


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