The lights will shine brighter throughout White Sands Missile Range's main post due to an upgrade to LED lights that will replace all current street lights, security lights, parking lots and area lights. The transition began February 2018 and will be completed February 2019.
"A lot of cities are converting to LED lights," said WSMR Energy Manager Craig Collins. "Las Cruces converted their lights to LED a few years ago. On average you save half of the energy and the lights are twice as bright."
The new LED lights will replace High Pressure Sodium and Metal Halide lights that can currently be found throughout the installation. These standard street lights required maintenance every 18,000 hours. The new LED light only requires maintenance every 100,000 hours. Collins said in over 20 years there is a savings of 155,000 hours in labor and $500,000 in parts.
"It's less money we have to request from IMCOM to pay for utilities," he said.
Within 20 years, 155,000 hours of maintenance costs would have been avoided with this project. The saved hours come from a fund called the Sustainment Revitalization Modernization Fund which goes towards fixing buildings and roads throughout the installation.
"Annually, the savings add up to $43,000 a year in maintenance," Collins said.
The project costs $2 million, $1.7 million for construction and $100,000 for contract costs. Funding for the project comes from a Special Energy Military Construction Army Energy Conservation Investment Program that Collins applied for in 2013. Fort Bliss is currently looking to convert to LED lighting and Aberdeen Proving Grounds has just converted.
"It's a special money that doesn't come out of our local garrison," Collins said. "It took about four years to be approved."
Collins also worked with WSMR Wildlife Biologist Trish Cutler to ensure the new lighting system would not affect the Migratory Bird Act.
"The number one thing we can do (to be in compliance with the Migratory Bird Act) is to down shield light," Cutler said.
She said light that leaks up to the sky can be disorienting for birds in migration. The birds can get confused and fly towards the light and they either get tired and fall or hit something and die. The new lights will only point down and not up towards the sky. Cutler said this is also beneficial to residents because it provides a clearer view of the stars at night. She said out in a testing range it is also very important for certain test missions that require a dark sky. Cutler also worked with Collins to ensure the color temperature was as warm as possible so the lights were not unnecessarily bright.
The lights are being installed by a Las Cruces solar company called Solar Electric and the project is being overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The light transition began on Aberdeen Drive and will continue throughout main post for approximately a year. WSMR residents can see the LED light installations beginning in the housing area, Feb. 22.