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South Bend, Indiana Michigan Power upgrading 9,000 city streetlights to LEDs

A 15 watt General Electric Evolve ERL1 LED streetlight installed in Watertown, Mass.
Wikimedia Commons
A 15 watt General Electric Evolve ERL1 LED streetlight installed in Watertown, Mass.

South Bend and Indiana Michigan Power are planning to upgrade 9,000 of the city’s streetlights to LEDs, improving visibility, saving money and reducing emissions.

The city has 12,000 streetlights, but only owns about 3,000 of them. The rest are owned by Indiana Michigan Power, with the city paying for maintenance and operation.

And soon, all 9,000 of those lights will be upgraded to LEDs.

Public works director Eric Horvath told the Common Council Monday that the switch will greatly improve visibility, save energy costs and reduce carbon emissions.

Currently, the city uses 5.1 million kilowatt hours per year on its I&M streetlights. With the switch to LEDs, that will drop to 2.1 million kilowatt hours.

“It will help our carbon footprint,” Horvath said. “That’s enough electricity to power about 200 residential homes for the year — so, a significant amount of energy savings.”

Horvath said the new lights will be brighter and less yellow — from 2,700 to 3,000 kelvin — than the current high pressure sodium bulbs, or HPSs.

“It gives you much better ability to see at night — you can actually tell colors much better than you can with the HPSs,” Horvath said.

The LEDs will also be more focused, meaning less light pollution, glare and bleed over into nearby homes and businesses.

“Rather than an HPS light, which is sending light 360 degrees up into the sky, up into people’s homes, these will be aimed right down at the street and sidewalk,” he said.

Finally, the LEDs will be more reliable, lasting three to four times longer than the current lights.

“When you have 12,000 lights that are HPS and they last two-and-a-half years, that’s going to be over 90 a week that are going to go out on average,” Horvath said. “With the LEDs lasting three to four times longer, there’ll be a lot fewer lights going out.”

If you want to see the difference, I&M has installed several test LEDs in these locations:

  • Portage Ave. between Marquette Blvd. and Woodlawn Blvd.
  • Lincolnway West between Wilber St. and College St.
  • O’Brien St., Johnson St. and Wilbur St. between Vassar Ave. and Elwood Ave.

The city is collecting feedback online about the new lights until March 11.

Conversions are expected to start in late spring, and the city plans to have all 9,000 lights replaced by this fall.

Contact Jakob at or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.