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Sunday Focus: City LED project underway

NATCHEZ — People who drive through Natchez at night might have noticed that some streets are a bit more illuminated than they once were while a $1.5 million citywide LED upgrade is well under way.

Representatives of Schneider Electric first pitched the project to the Natchez Board of Aldermen in September 2018 and the city proceeded with financing the upgrades in June.

Natchez Public Works Supervisor Justin Dollar said hundreds of bulbs have already been replaced in downtown Natchez while the city works its way toward replacing every city-owned light bulb — indoor and outdoor — with brighter and more energy-efficient LED technology.

“We actually have two LED projects that are ongoing — with Schneider Electric and with Entergy,” Dollar said. “With Entergy, we’ve already switched out 460 of 639 bulbs on multiple streets. … Schneider has already started replacing city building lights and I suspect they’ll be starting on city street lights this week.”

Why LED

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said he’d decided to make the switch to LED soon after he was elected mayor, adding the upgrade “just made sense” for multiple reasons.

“It is actually enhancing our visibility — our streets are brighter because of this change,” Grennell said. “It also enhances aesthetics and helps people feel safer. Most of all it creates a savings.”

Allie Harris, Sales Team Leader for Schneider Electric said the switch would result in approximately $91,000 worth in savings in the first year after installation.

“They should see about $91,000 in energy savings each year,” Harris said. “We guarantee the savings annually for 20 years and if the savings fall short of the guarantee, Schneider Electric will reimburse the City the difference. … That’s an 18% reduction in energy costs.”

Harris said the project would enable the city to reinvest over $2.3 million from energy savings into infrastructure projects over the next 20 years.

The project is funded through a 15-year lease with Home Bank and the City should receive about $70,000 in utility rebates from Entergy, Harris said.

“It’s just the smart thing to do,” Harris said.

Scope of work

Grennell said the city would utilize some of the savings this fiscal year to replace the roof and HVAC units at the City Council Chambers, which is included with the Schneider upgrade and should be finished in March 2020.

Harris said Schneider crews would be replacing over 3,800 light fixtures with LED technology.

This includes every city-owned street light and throughout all city-owned facilities — both interior and exterior lighting — totaling over 174,000 square feet.

Harris said lighting controls would also be placed in select areas to shut lights off when they are not needed.

Additionally, Grennell said the city is also replacing high-wattage light fixtures owned by Entergy, which is an additional $20,772.57 upgrade.

“We play a flat rate with Entergy and with this upgrade will save from $1,165.10 per month,” Grennell said. “It takes 18 months for the swap to pay for itself.”

Grennell said the city would later proceed with replacing other lower wattage bulbs for as long as it is economically viable to do so.

“Phase two of the project would be the next level of high wattage bulbs owned by Entergy, which included over 2,000 streetlights in the city,” Grennell said. “It’s not going to be an overnighter.”

Timeline

Harris said lighting installation in city-owned buildings just kicked off last week.

“They started in City Hall and I believe that should be finished this week,” Harris said. “Then they will systematically go through with two crews. One is going to be working on streetlights and the other will be working at all of the city’s facilities. … We are aiming to complete project installation by the end of January 2020, but it could take a little longer.”

Grennell said the first phase of the Entergy installation might also be finished by Thanksgiving, adding he hopes to see Natchez almost fully illuminated with LED lighting by Christmas.

“I know some people were seeing that there were several street lights out in the city,” Grennell said. “We knew that those street lights were out, but did not want to go in and replace them with the old bulbs when we also knew we would be replacing them with LED. It just didn’t make sense to waste money on what we had when we were getting this new technology.”

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