The City of Wilmington today unveiled big plans to repower the entire town, replacing thousands of traditional street lights with LED lighting and “smart” technology in an effort to make the city brighter, cleaner, and safer.
Using sensors that attach directly to the light poles, the smart technology can monitor street traffic and trash collection, air quality, available street parking and even detect and pinpoint the location of gunfire.
The first wave of the conversion commenced today with the installation of new LED lighting at the corner of 7th and North Monroe Streets, where Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki, Wilmington Public Service Commissioner Kelly Williams and representatives from Delmarva Power provided a demonstration of the project, named “ConnectWilmington.”
Working in partnership with the company, the city eventually plans to convert all 7,050 street lights to the longer lasting LED lights, and many of those will also include smart sensor technology.
Commisioner Williams says the desire for better lighting started with residents. “The one thing I love about this project is that this was a grassroots request for brand new lighting. This really came from the community, and it’s a request we are able to fulfill. It’s going to change what the city looks like.”
Existing street lights last about 5 years. But the new, efficient LED lights will last 10 years, saving the City an estimated $150,000 annually in energy costs. The new LED lights also will consume about one-third of the energy used by traditional lights and help neighborhoods reduce their carbon footprint.
Delmarva Power is providing upfront funding the smart sensor technologies and their installation for the first 50 lights in order to test their functionality and potential value. An existing tariff administered by the Public Service Commission will cover the installation of the LED lights.
Mayor Purzycki said he was particularly excited about the prospects of what enhanced lighting and smart technology on light poles could do for the city.
“If you brighten up the neighborhoods and make it high noon all the time, this will help with a lot of things not the least of which is crime, property crime, and violent crime. It’s much more important than anyone can imagine. It will change the way the city looks, feels and it will give a sense of the city moving forward.”
The Administration has legislation pending before City Council that would enable the City to convert all street lights – the city owns 1,750 and Delmarva owns 5,300.
Currently, homeowners have to call the City to report street lighting outages. The new LED lights will have a self-reporting feature that Delmarva Power Region President Gary Stockbridge says will greatly improve efficiency.
“Just the lighting itself and the ability to control it (the lights can also be dimmed or brightened) and to know when they are out – those things are great up front wins and can immediately add value to residents,” he said.
According to Delmarva, the smart city and sensor-based technologies might include:
- On-street parking monitoring to provide residents and visitors with ideal times for parking and available parking locations.
- Traffic management systems to transmit information about traffic flow, making daily commutes more efficient and time-saving.
- Emergency situation management and public notification systems to help first responders make more informed decisions and accelerate emergency response by accurately directing personnel to emergency locations and keeping the public informed.
- Firearm detection that directs police to a specific location during calls for service.
- Air quality, weather and noise monitoring and data collection to develop solutions to quality of life issues.
- Radiation detection readings that can be used by emergency personnel.
Stockbridge says Delmarva is also optimistic about yet untapped technology. “I don’t even think the Mayor and I yet understand all of the potential opportunities that may come out of this with the smart city technology.”
When asked whether some might find aspects of the data collection to be an intrusion of privacy, Stockbridge replied that the benefits far outweigh those concerns. “Any time you put in a network that collects data, people may be worried about that. The concern is maybe there. But we are a utility with State oversight with our Public Service Commission and data collection will be closely monitored.”
The first phase of the project is occurring in West Center City and along stretches of Washington Street, Baynard Boulevard and North Market Street near Brandywine Village. A joint letter from the City and Delmarva Power addressing the LED lighting project has been mailed to residential and business property owners near the demonstration areas to explain more about the joint effort.