Weather Forecast


Study to shed light on energy-efficient LED switch in Cottage Grove

The city of Cottage Grove is continuing to develop its long-term plan to be more energy conscious and is now focusing on retrofitting its roughly 2,800 street lights.

Earlier last month, the City Council agreed to move forward with a feasibility study that will evaluate the city’s lights, which are a combination of halide and high-pressure sodium bulbs, in an attempt to determine if retrofitting with LED bulbs is beneficial.

Representatives from Ameresco, a renewable energy service firm with an office in Eden Prairie, detailed the upcoming feasibility study last month, which could cost the city $12,500 if a retrofitting plan is implemented.

With the signing of an energy savings performance contract, the city gave the green light for the company to conduct performance checks on the city’s street light system in an attempt to identify a viable project. If it is discovered that the city would not benefit from LED lamping, no costs are associated with the feasibility study.

However, if it’s decided that the city would benefit from retrofitting the lights, $12,500 is on the line. The city can decide to either forgo a proposed retrofitting plan or sign an agreement to move forward with future plans. Both options require the city to pay.

“We’re saying that if we’re unable to identify a project, there is no cost to the city” said Kent Wolf, business development manager for Ameresco. “(The energy savings performance contract) is an opportunity for us to see if there is a viable project and, for whatever reason, we hope that you would choose to not walk away, then there would be a fee. But typically everyone moves forward when they see that that it is a self-funding project.”

Wolf added if the city decided to retrofit with LED bulbs, the anticipated 20-year savings is in excess of $500,000. Currently, LED bulbs have about a 100,000-hour life-span, or roughly 11 years, which cuts back on maintenance costs, Wolf said.

A cost to retrofit the lights with LED bulbs would be discovered through the planning process if the city decided to move forward.

Council member Dave Thiede, who cast the only dissenting vote, expressed concerns with the unknown costs associated with the project and the limited amount of information provided.

“Why can’t we gradually replace them,” he asked. “I’m sure Ameresco aren’t the only people who do this.”

City Administrator Ryan Schroeder said the disadvantage of doing the project in-house would be using city funds, adding that financing and payback options are available through Ameresco, and the company would provide a satisfaction guarantee.

“If we did it ourselves we wouldn’t have that insurance policy,” Schroeder said.

If Cottage Grove decides to partner with Ameresco, it would join other metro cities such as Eden Prairie, Plymouth, Brooklyn Park and Robbinsdale who have retrofitted city lights.

Ameresco plans to return to the city within the next 90 to 120 days with its analysis. The City Council plans to continue the discussion once it has received the study findings before making its formal decision.