COVID-19 has caused deaths, unemployment, bankruptcies and even predictions of mass departures of residents from densely crowded cities like New York.
The flip side of that last calamity is residents fleeing New York City will often seek homes in suburban and rural communities. For hundreds of towns and smaller cities in upstate New York, municipal revenue officials are getting ready to collect healthy increases in rental and home sales taxes.
That expected tax windfall for smaller communities bodes well for a massive project being coordinated by the New York Power Authority to install 500,000 new LED luminaries on streetlights in hundreds of communities in the state of New York.
The $250 million NYPA project offers low-interest loans and other assistance to cities and towns to pay for the new energy-efficient LEDs that are expected to last 25 years. City officials can also attach sensors and other gear to the streetlight components to monitor weather, pollution, noise and help with traffic controls. The streetlights are connected and can act as a backbone for the various smart city IoT tech, including remote management to identify outages and maintenance needs.
So far, 50,000 LEDs have been or currently are being installed in cities such as White Plains, Albany and Rochester. The project is the largest LED streetlight conversion in the U.S. and is expected to be complete by 2025.
“While 2020 and possible 2021 will be down years economically with COVID-19, because of mass emigration from cities like New York City, suburban and rural municipalities are expecting big upticks in revenue from and rental and sales taxes,” said Jesse Scott, manager for key accounts at NYPA. “Because LED street lighting conversions with added IoT sensors are revenue neutral and often cash flow positive, they are prioritized by cities over more capital-intensive projects.”
Scott anticipates those factors should help NYPA maintain its production schedule. While the entire rollout costs $250 million, cities should see $50 million to $100 million in energy and maintenance costs over the 25-year life of the luminaries, he said.
However, he said some municipalities are anxiously awaiting on a federal stimulus bill that would provide financial support to state and local government budgets. Those cities will wait for word on that bill before making any significant financial investments, he added.
Scott said NYPA is on track to having half of the 500,000 lights converted by net year. “The LED or radio frequency mesh asset control nodes on the lights have already accelerated participation rapidly,” he said. “This technology didn’t exist five years ago.”
Because the economics are so compelling, most LED conversions will occur before rollouts of 5G. “Outside of New York City and Syracuse, we have yet to see widespread deployment of 5G small cell technology. We may see some communities forego immediate savings and wait and see what the future holds with 5G, but that could be a big gamble,” Scott said.
“As the FCC tightens guidelines on how municipalities can charge for antenna attachment agreements, the pendulum is swinging in favor of the telecom companies,” he added.