New York rolls out huge LED smart streetlight upgrade, a backbone for IoT

Albany has new LED streetlights that could become hubs for IoT sensors and for Internet access in low income neighborhoods. The upgrades are part of a major overhaul of a half million streetlights throughout the state of New York first.envisioned in 2018 and expected to be completed by 2025. (Signify/Rasmus Degnbol)(Signify/Rasmus Degnbol/)

Cities around the globe have been replacing streetlights with energy-efficient LED luminaries for many years.  One of the biggest projects, in the state of New York, calls for half a million streetlight upgrades across hundreds of communities around the state.

Already, 50,000 LEDs have been or currently are being installed in cities such as White Plains, Albany and Rochester.  The entire rollout is expected to cost about $250 million, with savings of $50 million to $100 million in energy and maintenance costs realized over the 25-year life of the luminaries, according to Jesse Scott, manager of key accounts for the New York Power Authority (NYPA).

LEDs can reduce the wattage of a single luminary from 250 watts to as low as 75 watts, which translates into the potential for annual energy consumption reduction of nearly 500 gigawatt hours, enough to power nearly 45,000 households, according to NYPA.

In addition to energy savings, city leaders see upgraded and connected streetlights as a backbone to IoT smart city technologies, including remote management via a central dashboard to identify outages and other maintenance needs.  There’s more:  communities in upstate New York are adding sensors to the lighting fixtures for detecting snow and rain.  In the winter, that sensor data can help public works crews know when and where to send snowplows.

Other sensors for detecting air quality, vibration, noise and gunshots for crime control can be added with the information shared with first responders. Traffic light queue size data be used to manage public transit and traffic flows. There’s also the potential for cities to add hubs for Wi-Fi or cellular and gear for charging stations for electric vehicles.  Street information kiosks can be connected as well.

In Albany, the streetlights could potentially become a resource for providing Internet access to lower income neighborhoods, according to Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, who spoke in a video describing the Smart Street Lighting NY project.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo first announced the ambitious statewide lighting initiative in 2018.  On June 18, NYPA and global lighting vendor Signify publicly announced their partnership on the project. Signify spun off from Philips in 2016 and has operations in 70 countries with 32,000 employees.

Signify’s Interact City IoT lighting system is the technology basis for “an a la carte engagement with each of the mayors” in the project, Martin Stephenson, head of North Americans Systems for Signify, told FierceElectronics. “Use cases differ entirely, dependent on the landscape.  It’s a very customized approach.”

Smart Street Lighting NY is by far the biggest LED conversion project in the U.S., Stephenson said, and was extrapolated from an LED upgrade model used in Los Angeles. Signify has also worked on LED projects in the UK, Spain, Italy and Dubai.

New York cities and towns benefit from NYPA’s ability to offer low-interest loans to purchase the LED technology, since some towns face limits on their ability to issue bonds.

 In 2016, the state’s Public Service Commission approved an order allowing municipalities to purchase their streetlights from electric utilities that own them.  NYPA generates power from facilities and transmission lines it owns--80% comes from hydro—but distribution of electrons is still done by investor-owned utilities, Scott said.

NYPA also offers a turnkey service and smart city grants to communities to plan for adding sensors to connected streetlights depending on a city’s needs.

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