Bright idea leads to sustainable LED bridge lights

Motivated Memphian Daniel Atlas is beaming with energy. When he is not saving lives as a firefighter and paramedic for the City of Memphis, he likes to spend his free time daydreaming about possibilities and projects.

One day, Dan had a bright idea. Jogging through the neighborhood, he passed under the Trestle Bridge, the iconic illuminated model homes on the bridge overpass on Cooper, near Central. He saw the power meter spinning rapidly. Much to his surprise, he discovered how much energy the art installation requires just to stay lit.

Dan began to question how the power system worked and began to investigate. The current system is an energy drain. The Cooper-Young Community Association pays the city monthly to keep it lit, and it is incredibly inefficient system, illuminated by 40-watt incandescent bulbs. The monthly utility bill for just the lights costs more than the typical house, more than Dan’s own air conditioned home on Oliver in the peak of summer heat.

So, why not retrofit it to be more sustainable? Dan started a project that will require less maintenance and cost for the CYCA, a project that will benefit our community and city.

He tinkered with the idea of solving the power predicament. Dan got inspired and started working with a neighborhood electrician, Daurie Schwartz, of Schwartz Electric Company. Daurie was genuinely enthusiastic, willing, and interested from the start to be involved in a new project and venture into a new area of his field. They became partners in the planning, proposal, and hypothetical execution, and installation of the retrofit project.

The project consists of two phases: (1) Retrofitting the current system with longer-lasting LED bulbs and (2) creating a self-sufficient power circuit that runs on solar panels.

The objective is to have the Cooper-Young Community Association fund the upfront cost in order to save money and energy in the long run. Supporters can contribute to the project and the community through a fundraiser at the annual Art for Art’s Sake auction this spring.

LED bulbs have a lifespan of more than 20 years, and they pay for themselves in the first three years. The current system uses 40-watt incandescent bulbs, while the proposed LEDs are even brighter and use only 3.5 watts.

Solar panels will make the installation self-sufficient, and will even feed power back into the grid. The five panels will feed energy into the grid during peak hours, and will draw from the grid in down hours at night. MLGW give credits for excess energy produced, and actually pays more to buy power than they sell it for. The excess energy has the potential to make money for the neighborhood.

Dan thinks highly of the Cooper-Young community. “In this neighborhood, if you have an idea, not only are they willing to listen, they want to help you to see it come to fruition,” he said.

The CYCA has allocated about $1,300 toward Phase 1, and the bulbs will be installed in February. The new system will only require slight adaptation that will fit into the existing wiring.

Phase 2, the solar retrofit, will begin in early spring, but only if enough funds are raised from the community through the Art for Art’s Sake Auction this spring.

Dan’s story involves cooperation with the local Schwartz electric company, MLGW, and the consideration, support and funding from the CYCA association. The Trestle Bridge retrofit is important because it is a step towards sustainability, it is a symbol of our community, and it is an inspiration to the city.

Support the Cooper-Young Community Association. It supports projects like this and more. Stay posted for upcoming news and visit their website for more details on donating and supporting the community.

– Susan Dalton

Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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