Street Smarts

The brain of the smart LED streetlight is a Wi-Fi-enabled photocell which enables lights to pass data through a wireless communications network.

May 26, 2021

To generations of youngsters, streetlights were an important part of growing up. “Be home when the streetlights come on” was a standard rule of parents in neighborhoods all over.

But nowadays, streetlights can do a lot more than just turn on at dusk.

Penelec is converting about ​2,300 streetlights in the city of Erie, Pa., to smart LED streetlights. The new energy-efficient lights will provide the foundation for a wide range of technology.

A contractor crew installs a smart energy-efficient LED light in Erie.

“Smart streetlights in an interconnected network offer a variety of possibilities,” said Scott Wyman, president, Pennsylvania Operations. “They can help motorists find parking spots and the city to manage waste collection. They can be upgraded with security cameras and sensors to detect criminal activity.”

While typical streetlights can only switch on or off by sensing darkness or daylight, the smart version features photocells equipped with a Wi-Fi card that allow the lights to “talk” to each other, passing real-time data to a control center through a wireless communications network.

Smart streetlights can be monitored through Penelec’s network to determine if a light is burned out, or not operating properly. The LED lights are more cost[-effective than the lamps they are replacing, and are also brighter, helping to promote public safety.

Network controls also will allow specific streetlights to be brightened outside restaurants, bars and theaters to help keep patrons safe at night, or dimmed for special events such as fireworks.

The new lights are being installed in eight zones within the city, which include downtown and along the Bayfront area. The initiative is a component of Erie’s Smart City Project, which is intended to drive economic growth by attracting companies to locate tech jobs that pay family-sustaining wages in the opportunity zones. The project is expected to be completed by the end of summer.