ELLWOOD CITY – The borough is taking a proactive approach in reducing energy costs and is being aided in its efforts with a $168,750 state grant.

Dom A. Viccari, borough manager, said the Energy Harvest Grant, from the state Energy Development Authority, was one of only 24 awarded statewide, and Ellwood City was one of only two boroughs receiving the funds.

Much of the grant will be used to retrofit 289 out of 796 existing street lamps with LED lighting. LED lighting is specially designed to be energy-efficient, and just as bright as fixtures currently being used, officials said.

It is proposed to begin the conversion by changing 134 of the downtown decorative lighting units along Lawrence Avenue and Fifth Street as well as 154 cobra-head lights, curved lighting standards.

Viccari said the process for obtaining the grant began after an energy use study performed by the state Department of Environmental Protection in 2005. The study said the borough pays $77,520 annually to operate streetlights, about $212 per day. It was suggested the borough could save $8,120 annually by converting to high-pressure sodium or induction fluorescent lamps.

Soon after becoming borough manager in July 2006, Viccari contacted Jim Wassel of Appalachian Lighting Systems of Perry Township. Wassel developed a prototype for LED street lighting, which would use only 10 percent to 20 percent of the energy needed to power conventional lighting fixtures.This has the potential of saving the borough more than $69,000 each year.

A prototype of an LED streetlamp was installed at 12th Street and Factory Avenue.

Wassel’s firm continues to develop the lighting sources and is renovating a building in the Burnstown section of Wayne Township for a production facility. His company now has offices in the basement of the Ellwood City Municipal Building, but plans to have offices in its new facility, Wassel said.

In addition to streetlights, traffic signals also require a significant amount of energy – about $19,000 between July 2004 and July 2005, according to the DEP study.

In an effort to trim those costs, Viccari said the borough plans to participate in a joint purchasing program through the Lawrence County Council of Governments, which is applying for grant funds for LED lighting for the signals.

LED lighting fixtures also have a longer life – 34 to 46 years – while higher-wattage lights last 11.5 to 18 years.

In addition to more efficient streetlights and traffic signals, conversion of lighting from incandescent to energy-saving fluorescent continues in the municipal building as well as other borough facilities. The DEP also performed a thermal-imaging study of borough buildings to locate energy-draining windows and doors.

Savings realized from more energy efficiency are also helping economic development, with the reviving of a revolving-loan fund, which took place in June with a $50,000 loan to Appalachian Lighting Systems. The company used the funds to add six employees.

Viccari said the savings from the lower-energy-usage lights will be used to sustain the revolving-loan fund.

Overall, 121 municipalities and other agencies applied for grants from the state Energy Development Authority. The 24 grants awarded ranged from $112,000 to $1 million. A total of $11.5 million was awarded statewide to such entities as Carnegie Mellon University, Penn State and the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh. The other borough to receive a grant, Lehighton, will receive $750,000 for low-impact hydroelectric power.