Residents say BC Hydro's new LED lights cast too harsh a light

LED streetlights too bright?

Bright LED streetlights illuminating parts of the Tournament Capital are drawing ire from several residents, with one neighbourhood representative asking for more consultation on the matter.

Chris Ortner, president of the Sagebrush Neighbourhood Association, said new bulbs installed by BC Hydro along residential streets are “ultra bright” — and residents are hoping the type of light can be changed.

"It actually looks like a harsh white light that's getting put in, and this is the one that gives people headaches, they can't sleep and the blinds don't keep the light out,” Ortner explained.

He said the type of bulb being installed doesn’t seem to be suitable for residential areas.

“Every street does not have to be lit up like the Nissan parking lot,” Ortner said.

Ortner confirmed there are two main concerns being raised by Sagebrush residents, one being the bulbs being replaced on BC Hydro poles. Other residents — particularly those living in apartments on Ninth Avenue — say they are experiencing harsh spillover light coming from a nearby daycare parking lot.

Ortner said the area at the south end of Ninth Avenue was dark before it was developed, but since the new Children’s Circle Daycare facility has become operational, he has received “major comments and outrage from people in those apartment buildings.”

“All of a sudden their apartment, which had historically been dark, is now as bright as day at nighttime,” Ortner said.

The City of Kamloops confirmed the parking lot is privately owned. Castanet Kamloops reached out to Children’s Circle Daycare to ask about the lights, but the non-profit did not respond by deadline.

As far as BC Hydro streetlights are concerned, Ortner said residents have attempted to approach the Crown corporation, but have been “rebuffed.”

Ortner said he understands the switch from high pressure sodium to LED lights is a federal government requirement, but believes it was an error that there was no public consultation done regarding the type of lights.

“We're looking for some advice and some help from city staff and from council to try to influence Hydro’s placement of these lamps and where they put the ultra bright ones. If people want them changed out, we’re hoping they'll be changed out,” Ortner said.

In a statement to Castanet Kamloops, a BC Hydro spokesperson said the company owns and maintains over 90,000 streetlights province-wide, and over the next two to three years, plans are in place to replace them all with energy-efficient LEDs.

BC Hydro said this program hasn’t been rolled out in Kamloops yet, but there have been approximately 300 LED lights installed in the city where old ones have burned out.

“In cases like this, in which the municipality has not provided us with their colour temperature or wattage selection but we need to replace a burned out bulb, we install the default selection which is a 75 watt, 4,000K bulb. This LED selection is made because it is most similar to the old light that burned out,” BC Hydro said.

BC Hydro said they haven’t received choices from the City of Kamloops but will install the wattage and colour temperature the city chooses.

Jen Fretz, civic operations director for the City of Kamloops, said the city has switched to LED bulbs, with about half of city streetlights now using the same wattage as what BC Hydro is installing.

“Based on our experience of switching to LED, for the most part, the lights don’t seem overly bright, but where they are, shielding has been a great solution,” Fretz said.

She said BC Hydro has not been open to suggestions around using shields on LED streetlights.

In May 2021, Fretz presented council with a report on BC Hydro’s upcoming rollout of LED lights, outlining a number of concerns the city had about the changes.

“When lighting is changed to LED, city residents are concerned with light shining into their homes based on the new lighting level,” the report said, noting the city has had first-hand knowledge of transitioning street-lighting technology.

“Shields are a very important component of the city’s program in order to resolve the concerns. Upon question, BC Hydro has not provided a response.”

The report noted staff were also concerned the spacing of hydro poles would cause dark spots once LED fixtures were installed, and that the utility company had not prepared a communication plan for residents.

Fretz said as of March 10, BC Hydro has not provided a response to a submission sent to the Utilities Commission and BC Hydro outlining those concerns.

On March 8, Coun. Denis Walsh introduced a motion suggesting council meet with BC Hydro to look for a solution to resolve neighbourhood complaints of excessively bright lights.

Walsh’s motion suggests that council ask BC Hydro for a temporary moratorium on the installation of any new lights until a solution is found.

“The goal would be to find an acceptable workable solution for this neighbourhood’s immediate concerns, and one that will also work throughout all city residential neighbourhoods,” Walsh’s motion reads.

Council will discuss and debate the motion at their meeting on March 15.

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