As municipalities across the country look to expand their infrastructure offerings while cutting their energy bills, an increasing number of towns are turning to more energy efficient solutions. The City of Vaughan, which is located in Ontario’s York Region, is one of the fastest growing cities in the province.

Recognizing that Vaughan’s streetlight network represents approximately 40 per cent of the city’s overall energy billing, the team at the City of Vaughan made it a priority to consider how this system can be more energy-efficient. Cue the city-wide LED Streetlight Retrofit Program.

To provide a safer, more sustainable and brighter street network for residents — and help foster a greener community — the City of Vaughan initiated the retrofit of “traditional” streetlights, known as high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights, to light-emitting diode (LED) technology on Vaughan roads.

Why LED?

LED lights use approximately 50 per cent less energy than previous bulbs and have a longer lifespan about four times longer. This translates into ongoing savings in operating and maintenance costs, and, as a result of the reduction in energy consumption, the city will save approximately $1.2 million annually.

Plus, LED lights are more reliable, help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve roadway safety for pedestrians and drivers as they radiate a warm white light. LED streetlights may appear brighter as they increase contrast, provide much higher colour rendering and improve depth perception. These lights also generally produce less light pollution than the old HPS lights as they focus more on roads and sidewalks.

Along with the retrofits, the program included smart technology upgrades, such as installing a centralized web-enabled lighting control system that allows remote monitoring, operation and maintenance of all LED lights. The technology provides accurate energy metering per streetlight, integrated GPS for real-time streetlight performance reporting and the ability to turn on, dim or turn off streetlights remotely.

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Program rollout

The program was executed in two phases:

Phase 1: In October 2019, LED lights were installed and tested on select streets before making the switch to all city-owned streetlights. To complete this phase, Vaughan received a Save on Energy incentive of approximately $2 million, which was pre-approved by Alectra Utilities in association with the Independent Electricity System Operator.

Phase 2: Launched in September 2021, work in Phase 2 of this project included installing new streetlight poles across the city to meet current lighting standards and accommodate LED technology.

Now, in 2023, Vaughan is the first municipality in York Region to complete the retrofit program. In total, approximately 26,000 new LED lights have been installed throughout Vaughan’s road network.

Post-top style streetlights, sports field lights, pathway lights located inside and outside of parks, City-owned facility parking areas and streets in unassumed subdivisions will be revisited in subsequent phases.

New LED streetlights installed on Lebovic Campus Drive.

Wondering what happened to the old lights?

All existing streetlights were removed and recycled in an environmentally safe manner in accordance with all applicable legislation and certification requirements.

This program is one of the many ways the city is prioritizing sustainable innovation and taking a Smart City approach to delivering efficient, reliable and innovative city-building. It also earned the city a2021 Smart 50 Award — an award created in partnership with Smart Cities Connect, Smart Cities Connect Foundation and US Ignite to honour the 50 most innovative and transformative municipal-scale Smart Cities projects globally.

To learn more, click here.

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Written by Vince Musacchio, the City of Vaughan’s Deputy City Manager of Infrastructure Development.

Featured images credit: City of Vaughan.

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