Firebaugh finds green beyond its verdant fields

The City of Firebaugh is now home to a total of 81 brand new light emitting diode, or LED, street lights, and they’re casting a brighter glow on City streets than the old high-pressure sodium bulbs they replaced.

The new lights are also significantly more energy efficient, saving the City much needed cash on its utility bills.

What this means to the average taxpayer is significant savings to City coffers through lower utility bills. The energy efficiency retrofits when complete will save the City about 26,516 kilowatt hours of energy per year. This roughly equates to a savings of about $3,372 a year.

And that’s a big deal in these troubled economic times.

Another big deal is that the entire project isn’t costing the City a dime. The money that makes the project possible comes from an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The program is administered through the U.S. Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission.

The project is one of several the City is pursuing to improve its future. The west-side Fresno County community of 7,000 hasn't let size get in its way of its ambitions, attracting solar and biofuel interests and pursuing sustainability.

Firebaugh's long-term strategy is to lower its greenhouse gas footprint and improve its quality of life. The City is working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through its Sustainable Communities Initiative. The goal of the program is to provide equitable development, planning and development approaches for achieving shared prosperity.

The City also launched an effort to better connect with the free-flowing San Joaquin River. The community began as a ferry crossing when most traffic into the Valley traveled via a much more robust waterway.

For the street light project, Firebaugh joined with 35 other cities and counties in the region to form the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Partnership, which is led by the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District with the assistance of the nonprofit San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization. The Partnership administers the more than $4 million in grants and provides technical assistance to local governments.

The City worked with Pacific Gas and Electric Co., which installed the lights through its LED street light retrofit program.