WELLAND – At precisely 7:46 p.m. Tuesday, a demonstration streetlight set up in city council chambers began to brightly glow.1331202986379_ORIGINAL

At the same moment, four more streetlights installed earlier in the day along Frazer St. switched on for the first time, said Rob McAnally, chief operating officer of Appalachian Lighting Systems.

The new city’s new LED streetlights are programmed to light up at the same minute the sun sets, and that time changes daily. Thursday night, for instance, the lights on Fitch St. should turn on at 7:48 p.m.

The lights are programmed to dim by about 50% at 2 a.m. — using half the electricity and making them even less expensive to operate.

“The system is almost infinite in its flexibility,” McAnally said.

It’s one of many advantages the city will have in years to come after all high-pressure sodium streetlights are replaced with the LED system.

Representatives of the Pittsburgh-based manufacturer were at Tuesday’s city council meeting to discuss all the bells and whistles the new lights will offer, such as an ability to track and control the brightness and power consumption of streetlights by using a computer connected to the Internet — or even by using an iPhone.

As a result of the $4.4-million initiative, the city is lighting the way for other municipalities across the world while saving millions of dollars locally over the 15-year project, said David Ferguson, the city’s parking and traffic manager.

McAnally said Los Angeles began efforts to upgrade its old streetlights to LED about 18 months ago, but ran out of funding before the project could be completed. The lights that city installed also lacked the same level of control Welland’s new lights will offer, he added.

Mayor Barry Sharpe said Welland is “the first municipality to replace the cobra-head lights on a citywide basis with the most intelligent LED light fixture available in the world today.”

Appalachian’s project manager, Tabatha McAnally, said installations will begin on Welland’s east side, and continue with installations in the south, then east, north and central Welland. The old lights being removed, she added, will be recycled.

Throughout the project, she said city council and residents will be kept up-to-date on the progress being made. Residents will be able to visit to the city’s website to learn when lights will be installed in their neighbourhoods.

In addition to the 4,300 streetlights, the city will be installing 2,400 decorative lights in various parts of the city during the second phase of the project, expected to take place next year, Ferguson said.

Although a company specializing in LED lighting operates in Welland, CRS Electronics does not manufacture streetlights, said Al Hussey, CRS’s chief operating officer.

Although the city did introduce Appalachian Lighting system representatives to CRS management, Hussey said there was little opportunity to collaborate at this time.

“It really was out of our focus area for marketing right now,” Hussey said when contacted on Wednesday.

He said CRS is busy working on its contract with Energizer to supply LED lights.

“That’s our total focus right now, Energizer and household lighting. We have Canadian Tire, we’re working on U.S. retailers and that’s really the focus,” Hussey said. “The streetlight thing was something we just had to take a pass on.”