SUDBURY -- Greater Sudbury is forging ahead with its plan to convert city street lights to LED by the end of the year. According to a staff on the project, they are roughly $500,000 under budget.

The report is being presented to city councillors as an update during their Oct. 6 meeting and highlights the benefits of making the switch.

There are some who still don't like the move to the energy efficient lights, including Garson's Luc Boulard.

He used to be able to stargaze from his driveway, but due to added light pollution in recent years, and the new bright LED lights out front, it's now virtually impossible.

"There's way too much blue-content in the white light, to make the white light they're adding a huge amount of blue," said Boulard, a former electrician.

The amateur astronomer said the municipal property across the street from his house is incredibly bright. He's thankful his bedrooms are at the back of the house.

"Since they put the new LED lights in, that pie-shaped island in front of my home here is lit up at night as good as it is during the day," he said. "You could cut the grass there if you wanted."

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

The staff report on the project said the move was made as part of the city's Community Energy and Emissions Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It's also expected to result in a large savings to the city's operational budget – more than $1 million, according to staff estimates.

The city owns roughly 15,000 streetlights and they have just under 3,300 to converted, with the bulk of those in wards 6, 9 and 10.

They're hoping to have everything all done and completed by November. It's good news to groups like Re-Think Green.

"Our organization, like many other organizations out there that promote sustainability, have been pushing for this for a very long time," said program director Simon Blakeley. "It's a quick win and LED lights can actually improve certain circumstances in terms of things like luminosity."

Blakeley said by using less power, we are putting less demand on natural resources and reducing our carbon footprint.

"The more you need to consume, the more you need to produce," Blakeley said. "So what we do is promote resourcefulness, efficiencies across all sectors of businesses, and the economy in general, and from a lighting perspective this is a good, strategic intervention."

Blue light concerns

Other studies, however, have warned against the use of blue-tint LED lights, including one from the French Health Authority and a position statement by the Canadian Association of Optometrists.

They say they are not telling cities like Sudbury what to do, but warn there are things urban planners need to address. 

"So you know if you're out on the street and you get more exposure to blue light - if you have street lights coming in your bedroom windows - does that disrupt your sleep cycles, does that affect the environment, animals and wildlife and things like that," said Michael Nelson, an optometrist and president of the Canadian Association of Optometrists.

"Suddenly if you're driving at night - you're dark adapted and you can see quite well, but if you get a bright burst of really bright light then that can disrupt your dark adaptation and it could take a number of minutes for you to re-dark adapt."

Several cities including Toronto, Calgary and Saskatoon have already made the switch.