Hettinger County lights up with LEDs

Worker changes LED lights. (Top Right) Strong vertical of LED light. (Bottom) Trailer filled with old lights to be recycled. Herald photo / Brad Mosher

Life in North Dakota’s small rural communities will be brighter, while saving money at the same time, according to a spokesman for the Montana-Dakota Utilities Company.

By Brad Mosher

The Herald

On average, the municipal utility bills will be dropping in cost by 15 percent throughout the state, said Mark Hanson, a spokesman for the utility company.

But in Hettinger County, it will be Mott that will have the highest decrease in the utility bill when the communities completes its changeover to LED street lights.

Mott’s bill will drop 19 percent when it completes the changeover of its 171 street lights.

But, they won’t have the biggest decrease in the area. Bowman’s bill for street lighting will drop by 20 percent.

Killdeer, north of Dickinson, was even better.

According to Hanson, Bowman had more street lights (178), but Killdeer’s bill will drop by 21 percent for its 122 lights.

The community with the most street lights is Hettinger with 210, but it will only have an estimated two percent drop in cost.

In Hettinger County, New England has the most street lights (173), but will have just a two percent decrease. Regent will see a 14 percent decrease in its monthly bill for its 70 street lights.

According to Hanson, most of the communities are finished with the changeover to LED lighting.

“Switching to LEDs is kind of a company standard … a new standard. If we were installing anything new or if one needed to be replaced, we’d switch to LEDs. That started in 2016 and we planned to have a complete switch of the communities. In 2018 we completed the state of Montana and in 2019, we plan to complete working on North Dakota and Wyoming.

“Where we own the street lights, we will have them all complete,” he said. “Usually, if we are in a community, we will own them all (street lights). We don’t mix or match, generally.”

Generally, the company owns, operates and maintains the street lights in communities where they are located, he added.

There are several reasons to adopt the LED lighting, with economy being a major economic motivator, according to Hanson.

“Energy savings is the biggest. We also have maintenance savings.

“With the older, existing street lights, it is getting harder and harder to find parts to repair those, if they go out.

“The LEDs give you energy savings but they also have a higher lumen output which means they are a lot brighter,” Hanson added. “They also shine down on the streets more they way they were intended, rather than the older versions which could go up. Efficiency is the biggest driver, but it is also harder to find the parts to repair the older ones,” he added.

The sodium vapor lights are about 250 watts. The mercury vapor lights are about 400 watts. The LED is about 160 watts, he said.

The LEDs are brighter and provide more color than the other ones, which are kind of yellow, he explained.

“Generally, it will be a net decrease in costs,” Hanson said. The rental costs of the lights will be higher because they are newer, he explained. “There will be all new contracts that will go with these. Those costs will go up, but the energy costs will go down.

“Each community is different for a few reasons. One is the number of lights. Number two, is what the previous contract was.

“It may be a lot different than the new contract will be. We are working with each city,” he added.

The new LEDs are in a protected assembly, while the older units will be recycled, Hanson said.

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