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Our View: Sykesville’s eco-friendly move toward LED lighting also makes good fiscal sense

Being environmentally friendly can also make a lot of fiscal sense. Just ask Sykesville, which expects to significantly reduce the town’s overall energy use while at the same time saving money in utilities, thanks to modern lighting technology.

The town has procured a $25,000 grant from the Maryland Energy Administration to use toward implementing energy-saving lights. Jared Schumacher, the town’s grant manager, had proposed in October to pursue the MEA grant with the promise that it would reduce the town’s overall energy use by 15%. The council voted 5-2 in favor.

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At Sykesville’s town council meeting Monday night, a representative from Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. spoke to how the town can save on energy. “What the plan is designed to do is take your existing lights, your street lights, which BGE has already come out and identified what belongs to you and what belongs to us as far as ownership and give work to the LED technology‚” said Richard Taylor, a BGE spokesman.

LED, which stands for light-emitting diode, technology is far better for the environment than conventional bulbs.

LED lights are up to 80% more efficient than traditional lighting such as fluorescent and incandescent lights, and 95% of the energy in LEDs is converted into light with only 5% wasted as heat, according to the Solar Electric Power Company. By comparison, fluorescent lights convert some 95% of energy to heat and only 5% into light. A typical 84-watt fluorescent can be replaced by a 36-watt LED to give the same level of light. Less energy use reduces the demand from power plants and decreases greenhouse gas emissions. Also, according to SEPCO, fluorescent strip lights contain noxious chemicals such as mercury that can contaminate the environment when disposed of at a landfill.

Taylor said the plan would cut utility costs for Sykesville by 45 to 55 percent and would come with a light lifespan of 10 to 12 years. Taylor said Sykesville could further reduce the total cost to the town through rebates. Some demos of the brighter LED lights have already been placed in a number of buildings in town to gauge how residents respond.

Mayor Ian Shaw said the town is already saving money. “It’s hard to argue; I’m going to say, I think, we’re saving $1,000 a month just with the LED upgrades we’ve already done,” Shaw said.

LED lights are brighter, which can bring the added benefit of making the town safer at night because the streets will be better lit. The only concerns seem to be about that increased brightness.

“You have to be conscious to the fact that for people that live in these areas, the light can be a bit much,” Taylor said. “So, as far as logistics go, that’s something we have to be aware of as we implement the LED technology because it does provide a level of security but it can be, people are like, ‘Hey, it’s like daylight in my house at night.’"

The benefits — ultimately less expensive, safer and better for the environment — provide ample motivation for town officials to figure this out and we have no doubt they’ll find a wattage that works for everyone.

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