The street lights in Morrison County are looking a little different these days.
Minnesota Power began its LED Street Light project in April 2020. According to Minnesota Power Senior Communications Specialist Kelley Eldien, all of the street lights and most of the area lights in Little Falls have already been converted to LED. Only some larger customer-owned area lights and flood lights have yet to be converted.
In all, 890 street lights and 338 area lights in Little Falls, Royalton, Pierz, Upsala, Lastrup and Flensburg have been updated. Area lights are considered those that light parking lots or customer yards.
“Under Minnesota Power’s Energy Forward strategy, we are continuing on our path to a sustainable energy future by successfully diversifying our energy mix to reduce carbon emissions and expand wind and solar resources,” Eldien said.
There are several reasons for the change to all LED. According to Minnesota Power, LED lights use 50% to 60% less energy than more traditional sources. They also have lower carbon emissions and last “signficantly longer.” Eldien said that greatly reduces street light outages and the number of times a light needs to be visited by a line crew.
Another reason is cost. Though specific price per fixture depends on the type and light output, Eldien said energy usage alone will save at least 50% to 60%.
“The cost of LED luminaires has gone down,” she said. “The cost of regular lamps is continually going up due to manufacturers switching to LEDs, some are even hard to find. Utilities have been warned they may stop producing them.”
LED light builbs are also “dark sky” compliant, meaning the light they omit is not as bright.
The cost of the conversion was covered entirely by Minnesota Power, including all of the wiring, cost of fixture and mast and additional grounding, as needed.
“Minnesota Power needs to complete this project since some lighting rates were discontinued in 2010, and other lighting options such as mercury vapor were obsolete and becoming increasingly difficult to find bulb replacements,” Eldien said.
Morrison County is just part of the entire project. Eldien said Minnesota Power plans to convert all of its street lights by the end of 2022. Work in 2021 will focus on the Long Prairie and Pine River areas.
It is all part of the company’s plans to become more environmentally friendly.
“We will achieve a remarkable milestone this month: delivering 50% renewable energy to our customers,” Eldien said. “(We are) the first utility in Minnesota to do so. But rather than stopping there, we will continue down the road to a future that offers reliable, competitively-priced, carbon-free energy to all of our customers.”