Shelburne Energy Committee talk to consider whether town should acquire streetlights

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 08-07-2023 1:47 PM

SHELBURNE — Energy Committee members will present their recommendations about the town’s options for streetlights in Shelburne Falls and field questions from the public on Wednesday.

The presentation, to be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Fellowship Hall, 17 Little Mohawk Road, comes ahead of the Selectboard’s Aug. 14 decision on how to proceed with the streetlights. The Selectboard will decide between continuing to rent lights and fixtures from Eversource and switching to LED lights provided by the company, or opting to own the lampposts and light bulbs. The Energy Committee favors the second option.

“The approach would provide Shelburne taxpayers with additional savings and provide the town with more choices and control of its streetlights,” Cynthia Boettner, who serves on the Energy Committee’s Streetlight Subcommittee, wrote in a statement.

The subcommittee found while researching the options that more than 100 cities and towns in Massachusetts opted to gain streetlight ownership from their utility company when switching to LEDs. These municipalities hired private energy service companies to evaluate their needs, as well as install and maintain new fixtures and bulbs.

“It’s the long-term maintenance costs over the lifetime of these long-lived LEDs that create the biggest difference in savings between the two approaches,” Energy Committee Chair Tom Johnson explained. “Over 25 years, taxpayers could save in the neighborhood of $120,000 over the Eversource option.”

Some residents expressed concern during an LED demonstration provided by Eversource. According to the Energy Committee, the company switched some streetlights to different wattage LEDs to allow the public to view the difference. Some residents found the streetlights to be too bright, shining directly onto their properties and into their windows.

Eversouce also put up a shielded option that attempted to protect one resident from light shining onto their property. However, the shield caused the light to impact residents on the opposite side of the street.

Other issues that will be discussed during the Energy Committee’s presentation are concerns with how streetlights impact residents’ ability to view stars in the night sky, as well as how they disrupt bird migration and the behavior of other wildlife. There will also be a discussion of how light affects human sleep.

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Although the Selectboard had initially intended to decide on how to proceed with the streetlights in March, residents came forward with a petition that included 90 signatures. The petition asked the Selectboard to provide extra time for the Energy Committee to conduct more research about alternative options.

The Selectboard gave a deadline of Aug. 1 for the Energy Committee to provide a report on its findings. The report, which can be viewed at bit.ly/44eMvAR, recommends the town pursue acquiring ownership of the streetlights and bulbs from Eversource. The committee feels this is a better option because the town would have more control over the lights’ wattage, allowing for cost savings and better control of light pollution. Eversource does not offer this customized approach.

The Energy Committee also found that grants are available to fully cover the costs of transitioning the town to using LED streetlights.

“If we choose to accept the free Eversource LEDs, even for the short-term,” Johnson said, “we feel quite certain that granting agencies would be much less interested in funding a switch from one LED mode to another at a later date.”

Reach Bella Levavi at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.

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