A group of local councils in Western Sydney are cutting costs and carbon emissions by replacing nearly 14,000 old street lights with LEDs.
The biggest LED street light replacement project in NSW, Light Years Ahead, came to an end after nearly two years with the replacement of the final mercury vapour light in March.
This means LEDs now comprise nearly 11% of the total 127,000 street lights across the nine councils. It’s estimated the project will save participating councils $20 million and 74,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over 20 years, the average lifespan of a street light.
While dead mercury vapour lights were already being replaced with LEDs, the project sped up this process by also changing lights close to the end of their life.
Crews ended up installing 13,951 LED street lights across 136 suburbs — nearly 1000 extra lights than originally forecasted.
There is significant potential for lower energy bulbs to save money for local governments, given that street lighting makes up around 55% of the councils’ energy costs.
The emission savings are sizeable — equivalent to taking 37,000 cars off the road each year over a 20-year period, according to the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, which is coordinating the project.
Final reporting is underway and the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils is investigating options for additional lights.
WSROC president Councillor Tony Hadchiti said it’s a great time for Western Sydney and its council:
“It’s always satisfying to announce a major milestone on project. Light Years Ahead is a great precedent for future LED lighting projects and more generally, for other council-initiated infrastructure upgrades in Western Sydney.”
Endeavour Energy crews began installing LED lights in May 2014 in Werrington County, a suburb of the Penrith local government area. The last light was installed in Winmalee in the Blue Mountains.
Light Years Ahead received $5.3 million in funding from the Australian government and $2.6 million in funding provided by the nine participating councils. The project formally concludes in May 2016.
Into the crusher: old lights recycled
Most of the components of the old mercury vapour street lights, including plastic visors and ‘bodies’, are being recycled.
Components are loaded onto a converter belt with baling machine (informally known as a crusher). Once crushed, the lights are bound into a cube form, secured and then shipped to another facility overseas.
At the next waste facility the crushed components are to be converted into a fine pellet form, to be sold to businesses to melt and reshape the substance into acrylic-based products, including common household acrylic paint or plastic brochure stands often found on reception desk counters.
This has diverted over 5,040kg of waste from landfill, according to Hadchiti.
Photo: New LED lights in Werrington County near Penrith, by Serge Golikov.