by Courtesy of the city of Chula Vista

Chula Vista City Council approved a Research Use Agreement, with the Regents of the University of California to install up to 40 new grid-connected luminaries with solar power and battery storage at SDG&E park. 

Many cities struggle with maintenance challenges brought by aging exterior light fixtures, which can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and heightened crime rates. To address these issues, the California Energy Commission (CEC) funded the California Lighting Center at UC Davis to develop and demonstrate renewable energy and advanced lighting (REAL) systems equipped with features that are lacking in today’s commercial exterior lighting systems. 

The City of Chula Vista was included as a partner and a planned demonstration site at 1450 Hilltop Drive to receive up to 40 new grid-connected luminaires with solar power and battery storage at no cost to the city.

According to Eric Crockett, Deputy City Manager, and Coleen Wisniewski, Enviornmental Sustainability manager a city Staff Report, exterior lighting generally operates from early evening through early morning, primarily powered by carbon-dense fossil fuels. Low-quality exterior lighting has been linked to increased crime rates and reduced physical activity within the surrounding community. 

“Combine these conditions with Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS), which are increasingly common, and you have a carbon-intensive system that disproportionately impacts disadvantaged and low-income communities already suffering from an unsafe exterior environment with substandard lighting,” reads the City Staff Report. 

According to city officials, REAL systems are equipped with many advanced features absent from today’s commercial exterior lighting systems designed to have hybrid power, smart controllers for best battery charging time, light and health, reduced carbon emissions, reliability, and community safety.  

The project also re-invests lighting design practices specifically for lower-income and disadvantaged communities by engaging residents and business owners directly in a series of local community studies and technology demonstrations. The CLTC identified SBCS, formally known as South Bay Community Services, to collaborate on a series of outreach events to survey the local community. 

During the project, community members will provide input on the plans and have evening guided tours before and after installing the new lighting technology. 

“Only by pursuing this inclusive, community-focused relighting strategy can the true potential of energy-efficient, demand-flexible, exterior lighting for improved safety and health be realized,” Crocket said. 

With REAL systems, CLTC aims to maximize the use of low-or-no carbon electricity sources, among other community technical and cost-effective needs. Some of their goals include decreasing energy use by 80 percent compared to each community baseline, storing solar energy in an integrated battery that can power the luminaries at night, and safety and security for drivers and pedestrians. 

The new lighting technology will have energy and environmental conditional monitoring equipment to determine the baseline lighting operation and electric load. The CLTC will use the data to monitor the REAL system after the retrofit is complete. According to the city staff report, the data will be used to understand the system performance regarding potential energy savings, peak demand reduction, grid flexibility potential, and economic analysis. 

With this project, the city expects to realize utility savings and resilience in the event of a power outage.  

The LED luminaries, solar panels and/or batteries, and lighting control systems will be installed, monitored, evaluated, and maintained by the CLTC until March 2025. After that, the lights will stay in place and become the property of the City of Chula Vista.

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