Support Local Journalism


The city of Bozeman plans to make some streetlights brighter and greener by switching to LEDs.

Light-emitting diodes are expected to be installed this winter. City staff members are still finalizing the specifics, but city engineer Dustin Johnson said LEDs could be installed in streetlights along Durston Road, from Seventh to 11th avenues, and/or along West Babcock Street, from Main to Ferguson streets.

LEDs are 80 percent more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, according to the city’s Municipal Climate Action Plan. The plan, which Bozeman city commissioners approved in 2008, calls for eventually using LEDs in all streetlights.

“The maintenance issues are far less and the energy consumption is far less,” Johnson said.

Bozeman has budgeted $8,800 to replace 12 to 16 high-pressure-sodium streetlights with LEDs. Installation will take place in January or February.

LED lights don’t give off heat like incandescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs last around 2,000 hours, while LEDs can last more than 25,000 hours. LEDs also cost more initially but are easier to maintain, city officials say.

Incandescent lights are not the same as high-pressure sodium lights.

Once this winter’s pilot LED project is underway, Bozeman will measure and report potential cost and energy savings.

Replacing all of the city’s streetlights could prove difficult, as a variety of entities own Bozeman’s streetlights, said Street Department Superintendent John Van Delinder. And not all of those owners think LEDs are cost-effective.

NorthWestern Energy and private developers own some streetlights. The ownership of some other streetlights is unknown, Van Delinder said.

Currently, Bozeman spends $32,000 a month on the city’s electric bill for streetlights, said city Climate Protection Coordinator Natalie Meyer. That’s about one-third of the entire municipal power bill.

In Billings, residents petitioned the Montana Public Service Commission last year asking NorthWestern Energy to replace streetlights there with LEDs. NorthWestern Energy wasn’t interested, and the PSC decided in the company’s favor.

NorthWestern Energy spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch said this week that LED lighting requires more light poles and LED lights to produce the same illumination as traditional bulbs.

“The technology just isn’t there yet from our perspective,” Rapkoch said.

Bozeman’s LED pilot project would not require any additional light poles, Johnson said.

Some cities say they’re saving money by trading out their streetlights for LEDs.

Ann Arbor, Mich., got a $630,000 grant to retrofit more than 1,000 downtown lights. That initial installation is expected to save the city more than $100,000 per year, reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 267 tons of carbon dioxide, according to the city’s website.

Bozeman drivers and residents should be able to notice the switch to LEDs. LED lights are whiter than incandescent bulbs.

Joe Shaw, an electrical engineering professor at Montana State University who studies light pollution, said LEDs are a “smart move” by the city, but he hopes city officials will consider special LEDs that are less bright. That way, the lights will be less harmful to residents’ view of the night sky.

Shaw also suggested the city put rural streetlights on motion-detected timers.

Amanda Ricker can be reached at or 582-2628.

Support Local Journalism

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.


Support quality local journalism. Become a subscriber.

Subscribers get full, survey-free access to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle's award-winning coverage both on our website and in our e-edition, a digital replica of the print edition.