Smart County Arlington, Va
By controlling electricity usage with the SYNEXXYS Sentinel system, Arlington County, Va. has reduced more than 80% of the lighting costs of 500 of the county’s 7,300 street lamp. Based on the company’s 2016 estimates, once the county installs the system to control all 7,300 lamps, the county will:
- Save $400,000 annually in electricity savings
- Save $800,000 annual in operations and maintenance costs.
- Reduce greenhouse gasses output from 2,800 metric tons to 450 metric tons.
Sometimes, a county has to look far and wide for digital services that can help it save tax dollars.
And, other times, the solution is literally just around the corner.
SYNEXXUS Inc. which helped Arlington County, Va. reduce its electricity costs and become more efficient was located literally less than two blocks away from the county government building in the city of Arlington.
This year, the county has reduced more than 80% of the lighting costs of 500 of the county’s 7,300 street lamps by installing SYNEXXUS’s hardware and software, said Greg Glaros, the company’s CEO and CTO. Depending on the county’s roll-out schedule, soon all 7,300 lamps will be under the system’s control.
“We expect the county to recoup its investment within three years,” Glaros said.
In 2016, SYNEXXUS estimated that once every lamp is under its system, the county’s annual cost savings could be $1.2 million – including $400,000 is electricity savings and $800,000 in operations and maintenance efficiencies. Based on that estimate, greenhouse gasses from the county would drop 2,800 metric tons to 450 metric tons.
That’s a big deal for a government known as one of the most tech-savvy counties in the nation.
Last year, for the second consecutive year, the Center for Digital Government and National Association of Counties named Arlington as the “Number 1 Digital County,” in the 150,000 – 249,999 population category.
John Belcher, the county’s chief information officer, said the award honored Arlington for its best technology practices in areas of open government, transparency, citizen engagement, cyber security, and operations.
The county’s technological push attracts attention in the government community, said Mark Dowd, executive director of the Smart Cities Lab, a spin-off from the U.S. Transportation Department’s Smart Cities Challenge. The challenge, which began in 2015, encouraged mid-sized cities to develop ideas for an integrated, first-of-its-kind smart transportation system that would use data, applications, and technology to help people and goods move more quickly, cheaply, and efficiently.
“Arlington is an example of something done correctly,” Dowd said. “A lot of counties and cities that want to be more efficient haven’t completed made the effort. Their resources may include data management, but not analytics.”
The county owns both decorative lamppost lights as well as more practical cobra-style lamp. One way the county began to reduce lighting costs was replacing the older lamp bulbs with LEDs, a process which began about five years ago. Converting from the old lights to LEDs dropped energy consumption by those fixtures by about two-thirds.
The Sentinel System
Chris Campbell, SYNEXXUS vice president of business development and strategy, said the company first installed its software management platform into the county in 2016. That software included over-the-air firmware updates, full scheduling support, map-based control, and comprehensive reporting capabilities. SYNEXXUS hardware includes control nodes with radios and related hardware.
“The twist-lock nodes for cobra-style lights are much easier and faster to install than are the control nodes for the decorative lamps, so we expect the completion of installs into the remaining cobra-style lights to move fairly quickly,” Campbell said.
The Sentinel system allows the county to control how much the light each lamp is providing. Glaros said it’s like a high-tech “dimmer switch.” Imagine setting the controls so that the LEDs provide 100 percent of light from dusk to 8 p.m., then reducing that light each hour so that from midnight to dawn, each bulb is showing only 25 percent. Using that dimmer function could save the county about half of its energy costs.
Just as important is the system’s ability to retrieve and manage data. It can measure energy usage system-wide and provides a range of energy reports, daily, weekly, and monthly data for individual lights or groups.
It also allows the county to manage its manpower more efficiently, Glaros said.
“One significant need for a county is to reallocate people quickly to the right place to examine or replace lights,” Glaros said. “The system will tell the county which lights need to be replaced. They can send staff to replace a light even before the resident complains about it.
That’s because the system detects more than just whether a light is on or off, Glaros said. For example, its maintenance reports show which lights are working normally, partially working (reduced power), not working, or a range of more than 10 other different “status” conditions that can be used to help reduce overall maintenance costs.
Since then, the cost savings could be more, though neither the company nor the county had a recent estimate.
And, if saving tax payer money and reducing air pollution wasn’t enough, consider the legal angle, Glaros said.
“If a driver blames a burnt-out county lamp as the reason for his accident, the county, using the sentinel system, can quickly verify whether in fact the light was on or off,” Glaros said. “Otherwise, it would be harder to prove.”