After a years-long planning process, the next few weeks will see the first phase of NorthWestern Energy’s plan to replace all streetlamps with LEDs go into effect, said NorthWestern spokesperson Butch Larcombe.
The project will see about 43,000 NorthWestern-owned streetlamps across Montana replaced with energy efficient fixtures. NorthWestern will start with replacing lights in Helena and Billings.
During this first phase, NorthWestern will closely monitor activity, including the amount of time it takes to replace a light and any issues that might come up during the process. This will help ease the process when the project goes into full-swing next year.
“It’s our first time doing LED lights, but we are committed to changing all of our lights in Montana,” said Larcombe.
Most of the lights that NorthWestern is replacing are high-pressure sodium lights. Larcombe said that parts for high-pressure sodium lights are becoming more expensive and harder to find. This coupled with decreasing costs of LEDs prompted NorthWestern that it was time to change over.
NorthWestern Energy is projecting the LED lights to use about 50 percent less electricity and last two to three times longer than their high-pressure sodium predecessors. These facts coupled with the increasing popularity of LED lighting makes the swap both efficient and cost effective.
The estimated cost to replace all of NorthWestern’s Montana lights is about $24 million. The process will see workers replace the street lighting heads and lamps on a one-to-one basis with equivalent LED products. The streetlamps style and poles will not be replaced in most instances.
After completing both Helena and Billings, NorthWestern will move on to replacing the lights in other cities. “An important distinction is that only NorthWestern Energy lights will be replaced in this process,” said Larcombe. Street lamps owned by cities, local governments, the Montana Department of Transportation, private citizens or homeowners associations will not be upgraded.
Additionally, NorthWestern Energy-owned yard and area lighting will not be upgraded as part of the project. However, they will likely be upgraded once the initial project is completed.
Larcombe said that this is a four-year project and Northwestern expects full completion some time in 2022.
NorthWestern will begin replacing Helena and Billings streetlights in the next week or so, said Larcombe.
NorthWestern is continuing to work on a roll-out schedule for additional communities after the completion of these two cities.