Going Greener: Gas Lamps Grow More Efficient

Local residents came out to the Knights of Columbus Hall last night for the Charlestown Neighborhood Council Meeting.

Glenn Cooper, Associate Electrical Engineer of the Street Lighting Division for the city of Boston, made a presentation about the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Program currently in effect.

According to Cooper, California is known for being green, having reduced their carbon footprint with energy conserving initiatives.

However, he said, Boston is not too far behind California.

Boston has an aggressive energy efficiency target for reducing gas consumption. There are currently 2,800 solar panel gas lamps placed throughout the city, including five samples of ones presently used in Charlestown.

Charlestown residents have come to enjoy the gas lamps flickering in the evenings along  Main Street or Warren Street, but what people don’t know, is that the lamps result in an annual savings of $450,000.

According to Cooper, Boston spends $18 million dollars a year to operate and maintain about 70,000 street lights, including 19 different types of lighting fixtures and four different lamp types.

Needless to say, streetlights are both difficult and expensive to maintain, costing about $2 million in maintenance fees (aside from the $16 million spent annually to power the street lights). The energy efficiency program analyzes cost saving methods in order to decrease these hefty maintenance costs, as well as to alleviate other problems such as light pollution.

Another benefit of the project, aside from the obvious savings and environmental aspect, is that real estate values are higher wherever there are gaslights.

“Right now, gas is used 24 hours a day,” said Cooper. “The solar panel gas lamp turns gas on and off when it’s needed. Maintenance is heavily reduced.”

Cooper also added that even when there is no sunshine, the battery for the lamp is designed to last 20 days on its own, with a life expectancy of at least five years. The council members are in favor of the project that will replace all 2,800 lamps over the course of the next two to three years.

In 2008, the Green Communities Act was enacted in Massachusetts. The Act established energy efficiency as the state’s first-priority resource, creating an Energy Efficiency Advisory Council to develop statewide efficiency plans.

Many municipalities have taken the initiative to follow the Act and become greener.

On its own, a unit (lamp) costs $750, and the community can advocate for the implementation of more gaslights throughout Charlestown.

If the council sees it as an option for the neighborhood, a public meeting will be arranged for further discussion. As taxpayers, residents will likely appreciate the aesthetic, environmental and economic advantages that solar panel gaslights provide.

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