Erie switches to smart LED streetlights to improve safety

  • February 8, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

The city of Erie in Pennsylvania is converting about 2300 high-pressure sodium streetlights to smart LED streetlights to save energy and provide the foundation for technology to enhance public safety.

The lights are being installed by local utility Penelec, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy. The energy-efficient streetlights will be installed in eight zones within the city, which include downtown and along the Bayfront.

Smart streetlights have photocells equipped with a wifi card that allows the lights to talk to each other, passing real-time data to a control centre through a wireless communications network. Typical photocells can only switch streetlights on or off by sensing darkness or daylight.

These smart streetlights can be monitored through Penelec’s network to determine if a light is burned out, remains illuminated during daylight hours or is not operating at its proper voltage. Penelec relies currently on residents and employees to report problems with streetlights.

Network controls also will allow specific streetlights to be brightened outside bars and theatres to keep patrons safe late at night or dimmed for special events such as fireworks.

“LED lights typically offer savings and brighter streets that help promote public safety,” said Nick Austin, Penelec regional president. “Smart streetlights in an interconnected network can do much more. Going forward, they can be upgraded with security cameras and sensors to detect gunshots, help motorists find parking spots and manage waste collection. We are proud to help Erie pioneer this technology.”

The smart LED streetlight conversion initiative is a component of Erie’s Smart City Project, which is intended to transform the city and drive economic growth by attracting companies to locate tech jobs that pay family-sustaining wages in the city’s eight opportunity zones.

A Penelec contractor began converting streetlights in November and should be finished this summer. Crews can convert between 20 and 30 streetlights per day and have completed nearly 600 to date. The high-pressure sodium lamps are swapped out for smart LED fixtures at the top of existing light poles.

Penelec serves approximately 585,000 customers within 45,500 square kilometres of northern and central Pennsylvania.

FirstEnergy has ten electric distribution companies serving customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York. The company’s transmission subsidiaries operate nearly 40,000km of transmission lines that connect the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions.