Ann Arbor launches two initiatives to conserve and generate electricity: installing LED light bulbs in streetlights throughout downtown and kicking off its Solar America Cities campaign.
The two projects, which would be centerpiece developments in most other Metro Detroit suburbs, are helping burnish the Ann Arbor's reputation as the metro area's leader in environmental activism.
The city plans to start replacing all of its downtown streetlights with LED bulbs later this month. The $640,000 investment will replace bulbs in more than 1,000 street lights and is expected to pay for itself through maintenance and electricity savings within 3.8 years.
The lights, commonly used in traffic and tail lights, require less than half of the energy of a normal light bulb and last eight years longer than the normal two-year lifespan. The city is also looking into replacing all of its streetlights with LED lights. The current replacement program will cut the city's electric bill for those lights in half and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2,425 tons of CO2 annually, the equivalent of taking 400 cars off the road for a year.
"This initial installation should save the city more than $100,000 per year and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 294 tons of CO2," says Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje. "Our plan is to retrofit all downtown lights with LED alternatives over the next two years."
While the LED lights help the city conserve electricity, city officials are working on promoting solar energy programs that will help produce more electricity. The U.S. Dept of Energy named Ann Arbor a Solar America City earlier this summer, awarding it a $200,000 grant that will help fund a $432,000 community-wide program to promote solar energy.
Most of the parts of the program are part of an educational effort to get more residents and businesses to implement solar power systems. The city kicked off those efforts earlier this week.
"Through this solar grant we're going to be doing a lot of solar surveys," says David Konkle, municipal energy coordinator for Ann Arbor. "Those surveys will look at buildings and see what their potential is."
Last year Mayor Hieftje and the City Council set a goal of the city receiving 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2015. Since then, the city's Energy Office has developed a comprehensive plan, the Ann Arbor Solar City Partnership, which includes public education, solar installer training, demonstration projects, market incentives and regulatory support.
Source: City of Ann Arbor
Writer: Jon Zemke