SIOUX CITY | Over the next 10 years, motorists should begin experiencing a brighter drive down many of the streets in Iowa's cities and towns.
MidAmerican Energy Co. recently announced that it has begun the conversion of some 100,000 streetlights it owns and operates in the municipalities it serves from older high-pressure sodium bulbs to LED, or light-emitting diode, bulbs.
"There are several municipalities across the country moving to LED streetlights because of the energy-saving benefits. The purpose of this project is to help cities cut costs and save energy," said Ashton Newman, a MidAmerican media relations representative.
The city of Sioux City also has plans to convert streetlights it owns to LED bulbs, too.
Because installing, operating and maintaining the lights can be costly, many cities choose to have MidAmerican do it. MidAmerican charges the municipalities a fee, depending on the size of the lights. MidAmerican is converting the streetlights at no cost to cities unless they request an accelerated installation plan.
"As the existing lights fail, we will go in and replace them," Newman said.
MidAmerican owns about 6,600 streetlights in Sioux City. The city also owns about 1,600 of its own, said Ed Pickens, city field services/streets superintendent.
Pickens said the city has asked MidAmerican to change lights along highly traveled streets such as Hamilton Boulevard, Morningside Avenue and South Lakeport Street first.
"It's the place citizens are going to get the most benefit," Pickens said.
LED lights are known for their cost savings because they last longer and use an estimated 35 percent to 50 percent less energy, Newman said. Most noticeable to city residents will be the brighter, white color of the lights as opposed to the pinkish-orange glow of the current lights. LED lights also cut down on glare because they focus light down toward the street better.
The city began its own conversion to LED streetlights earlier this year, Pickens said. Most of the city-owned lights are in business districts, parks and street intersections.
The city has replaced about 50 so far, many of them on Historic Fourth Street.
"It'll take us a few years," Pickens said. "We're still determining which areas will be our priorities."
Pickens said he does not yet have a cost estimate for the conversion.
Because LEDs use less energy, power plants generate less electricity. That reduces carbon dioxide emissions. Once all streetlights are replaced, MidAmerican expects approximately 32 million kilowatt-hours of electricity will be saved annually for a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of approximately 22,000 tons, the same as removing 4,681 cars off the street every year, Kathryn Kunert, MidAmerican vice president of business and community development, said in a news release.
Earlier this year, the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors began studying a proposal to change every lighting unit in every county building to LED.