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Pilot Program Makes Street Lights 'Smart'

February 4, 2020

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t know a lot about your street lights. You may not give them much thought. At AEP Ohio we know plenty about street lights … but we want to know even more. And a new “smart” street light program will help us do just that.

AEP Ohio owns roughly 100,000 street lights that are leased to cities, villages and townships across our service territory. This partnership has worked well for decades; however, the technology behind it hasn’t changed much. We don’t receive any real-time information on the lights and don’t always know how well they’re working – or if they’re working at all. We rely on our employees and our customers to spot and report any outages.

To help with this issue, as part of a pilot program we’re testing close to 200 smart street lights in Canton, Lima and New Albany. These lights can provide us real-time status updates and are more energy efficient too. Benefits of the technology – both for AEP Ohio and our customers – include:

  • Quicker response to nonfunctioning lights (including during power outages)
  • Maintenance information indicating when a light might soon fail
  • Better and more accurate performance tracking
  • Reduced energy costs
  • Improved nighttime visibility and quality of lighting services

We installed the street lights in the fall in a mix of rural and urban locations. According to Al Kohler, an energy efficiency program coordinator for AEP Ohio, we’re already getting a clearer view of the performance of the street lights and, if our projections prove correct, customers could use up to 50 to 60 percent less energy.

From this test run we’re learning important information about our infrastructure and how to better serve our customers. In more advanced scenarios – which this pilot isn’t exploring – you can imagine bus stops lit up by occupancy sensors, empty roads illuminated when an oncoming car approaches, and variable brightness settings based on weather and traffic conditions.

“We’re a long way away from that kind of application,” Kohler says. “But it’s absolutely possible. There’s incredible opportunity with this technology and we’re just scratching the surface.”


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