Kennewick expects to save several hundred thousand dollars a year by replacing its streetlights.
Most of the 5,000 streetlights in Kennewick are high-pressure sodium lamps, which give off a yellowish glow.
They are being replaced with induction lights, which are bright white and extremely energy efficient.
"They also have a long life," said Steve Plummer, engineering services manager for Kennewick.
Induction lights have a life expectancy of 100,000 hours. High-pressure sodium lamps only last about 20,000 hours.
With the average operating hours of each streetlight figured at 4,078 hours a year, the high-pressure sodium bulbs last about a five years compared to the almost 20 years for the induction bulbs.
The cost of the project including the new lights is $1.8 million.
"We'll be saving in not just energy used but maintenance costs too," Plummer said.
Kennewick has a maintenance contract with Benton PUD but will drop it after all the lights are changed. A few lights near high-voltage power lines will still need to be maintained by PUD linemen, but the city will pay for them on a case-by-case basis, Plummer said.
"These are about five times better, and they're not even new technology. Induction lights have been around for about 100 years, but they just had not caught on to this application until recently."
Other cities are also switching their high-pressure sodium street lights for induction bulbs. Walla Walla recently swapped a lot of its lights, and the Franklin County PUD did some in Pasco too, Plummer said.
Richland is studying the benefits versus costs of switching but so far has found the cost of replacing them still too high.
"But we're still looking into it," said Sandi Edgemon, business services manager for the city's energy services department. "I understand they use 30 to 50 percent less energy, which would be quite a savings over the years."
"LED lighting is on the horizon, but the cost is very, very high right now. But those bulbs would last practically forever," she said.
Plummer said induction lights use 40 percent to 60 percent less energy depending on the voltage. And Kennewick's current budget for energy use is $900,000 for the biennium.
"Some city buildings are folded into that budget along with the streetlights. But the lights are a big part of that money," he said.
If the city saves about half the cost of power, that is a huge savings, Plummer said.
Kennewick awarded contracts to two electrical contractors to replace the lights. Crews from Potelco in Sumner have been busy for a few weeks replacing about 900 of the lights.
"The money for them, about $580,000, came from a federal block grant, it's part of the stimulus money," he said.
The rest will come out of the city's budget.
More of the induction lights are on order, and workers from the second contractor, Sierra Electric of Pasco, will start installing them in the next month or so. All the city's lights should be replaced by the end of the year.
Plummer said the light replacement project came about after the city had an energy audit. Part of the audit's findings showed changing the bulbs would pay for itself in energy savings after about seven years.
"Which is a pretty good turnaround on an investment," he said.