Madawaska ditches Emera to go LED

MADAWASKA, Maine — Selectmen voted recently to approve a contract with RealTerm Energy to switch the current high pressure sodium bulbs in street lights for LED lights in an effort to save the town more than $460,000 over 20 years, according to Madawaska Town Manager Gary Picard.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LED lights are “one of today’s most energy-efficient and rapidly-developing lighting technologies,” that are designed to last longer, burn brighter, and “use at least 75 percent less energy.”

Madawaska is one of more than a dozen towns moving to LED lights through an initiative that originated in 2016 with the Aroostook Municipal Association, according to Picard. The association considered a regional project in which each member community could participate while benefiting from the buying power of the group.

“The rationale was to work collaboratively in order to find the most savings,” he said. Several other communities in The County also are moving to LED lights to save on costs, including Fort Kent, Frenchville, Grand Isle, Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield, Washburn and Ashland.

Through the collaborative, Madawaska officials obtained an investment audit from RealTerm energy to help determine their best course of action. After the town manager and selectmen decided to make the switch to LED, they also needed to decide whether to stay with Emera, which owns and maintains the street lights, or to go with RealTerm Energy to provide the new LED lights.

The selectmen voted to approve the bid from RealTerm to change the 419 street lights currently in service from sodium lights to LED. This contract does not include the Main Street lamps that will eventually be updated as part of downtown revitalization.

Madawaska currently pays about $86,500 per year to Emera to power the existing sodium lights, Picard said. Under the new contract with RealTerm, the municipality expects to save more than $1.6 million in operating costs over the next 20 years, according to the town manager.

By going with the RealTerm lights, which come with Wi-Fi capability, the town also will be able to monitor and adjust brightness and illumination times.