(Photo by Holly Quinn)
Let there be (smart) light.
On the corner on Monroe and Seventh streets in Wilmington’s West Center City neighborhood, a ceremonial first LED streetlight of the first phase of Delmarva Power’s ConnectWilmington initiative was installed on Wednesday morning as part of a public demo.
Phase one will replace 215 street lights, using existing poles and part of the existing lamps, and will add 50 sensors that will relay information without human intervention.
It’s the beginning of a citywide upgrade that will make neighborhoods that have been asking for more street lights brighter, costs lower and energy use greener — with sensors that can detect malfunctions, air quality, noise and fires. In the future, the sensors could potentially monitor on-street parking, traffic flow and even detect firearms (or the lack of a firearm), officials say.
“It is the backbone for the smart city,” said Kelly Williams, commissioner of Wilmington Public Works. “The nodes that will go on top of these lights will speak to each other. There is technology that is so new and so developed right now that we don’t even know the capabilities of what a smart city can look like, but we do know that it will vastly improve our city and our communication abilities.”
Delmarva Power is funding the smart city tech and installation for this phase. There is currently legislation pending before City Council that would allow the City to borrow $2.1 million from the Efficient Energy Investment Fund for the citywide upgrade. According to a press release from the City of Wilmington and Delmarva Power, the estimated $150,000-per-year savings will more than cover the costs to repay the loan over 20 years.
“The one thing that I really love about this project is that it came from the community,” said Williams. “It came from community members asking for better lighting. Over and over, I’d go to these community meetings and they’d say, ‘We want a light here, we want a light here.’ This really was a grassroots request, that we’re finally going to be able to fulfill, which is really exciting.”
Watch Delmarva Power Region President Gary Stockbridge speak at the ConnectWilmington installation demo:
LED streetlights have faced challenges in some municipalities. In 2014, the City of Davis, California faced so much negative public backlash after installing LEDs that it had to reinstall new, less bright lighting. One of the issues with LED street lamps from five years ago was the jarring coolness of the light quality — a dramatic change from the warm, yellowish light from an incandescent bulb. Think about the difference between cool white and warm white fairy lights, or the difference between traditional headlights and white LED headlights.
The LED streetlights being installed in Wilmington give off a warm bright light. Before moving from phase one, Delmarva Power will gather feedback from residents of the area, which will include West Center City, North Market Street, Washington Street and Baynard Boulevard.
The ConnectDelaware launch comes on the heels of Gov. John Carney signing Senate Bill 12, the first vehicle to grid technology (V2G) legislation of its kind in the United States, and a national analysis ranking Delaware as the state with the third-fastest broadband speeds.
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