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PBOT’s street light switch cuts energy use in half

PBOT’s street light switch cuts energy use in half

By Hannah Schafer, Portland Bureau of Transportation

Portland’s largest ever energy-efficiency project is happening citywide and coming to Hosford-Abernethy.

During the next two years, through 2016, Portland Bureau of Transportation crews are converting 45,000 of the City’s 55,000 street lights to energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly LED (light-emitting diode) lights. The new LED street lights use half the energy of the current high-pressure sodium bulbs and are expected to last four times longer, or up to 20 years. That translates to a $1.5 million annual savings.

You may notice the change as well.  While the old bulbs cast a yellow light, the new LEDs have a cleaner and crisper color, akin to moonlight. The new LEDs provide the same coverage to illuminate city streets as the old fixtures. They also cut down on light pollution by projecting more light downward, and less upward.

Portland is in good company in making the switch. Cities around the country from Seattle to San Francisco are making the technology leap to LEDs, as are our neighbors in Milwaukie, Beaverton and Estacada.

For history buffs, it may be interesting to know that this is just the latest evolution for our city’s street lights. In Portland’s earliest years in the 1850s, our first street lights were powered by fish oil. In 1860, the first gas lights began lining Front Street and by 1872 half of the City’s 189 lights burned gas, the other half kerosene. During the 1950s, the City began installing mercury vapor lights and in 1980, those lights were replaced by high pressure sodium vapor lights. Now we are entering the age of LEDs.

The new LEDs will also keep 10,500 tons of climate-changing carbon pollution out of our atmosphere annually.

The final environmental benefit? The City is recycling the old sodium bulbs.

You can find more information and view a real-time map showing which streetlights have been switched out and which are scheduled for conversion at Additionally, you can use the map to provide feedback about the street lights in your neighborhood. Are your current lights too bright or not bright enough? Let PBOT know and they will take that into account during the installation.

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