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NorthWestern Energy retrofitting Missoula streetlights with energy-efficient LED fixtures, improving safety for drivers, pedestrians

Jul 24, 2020

MISSOULA, Mont. July 24, 2020 NorthWestern Energy is retrofitting about 1,800 streetlights in the City of Missoula, replacing existing high pressure sodium fixtures with energy efficient light-emitting diode lights. The change means these streetlights will use about 718,000 kilowatt hours of electricity less a year, resulting in a savings of about $79,000 annually for the City of Missoula Special Improvement Lighting Districts.

LED lights, which are whiter than the existing high-pressure sodium bulbs that have an orange-yellow light, provide improved lighting for the safety of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. The lights have a color temperature of 2700 Kelvins, which is often referred to as “soft white”, and they also render colors much more accurately than high-pressure sodium lights. The International Dark-Sky Association guidelines are for LED lights with a color temperature of 3000 Kelvins or less, and zero up-light in an effort to minimize sky glow. The LED fixtures NorthWestern Energy is using not only improve the quality of the light, but also meet the International Dark-Sky Association guidelines.

The City of Missoula Development Services Department worked with NorthWestern Energy to verify that the lighting is compliant with the City of Missoula lighting ordinance. NorthWestern Energy conducted nighttime streetlight output measurements in two specific test areas. The City of Missoula staff took light meter readings for the same lights and verified that the lights comply with the lighting ordinance, which includes light trespass requirements on adjoining property.

NorthWestern Energy is also retrofitting about 600 streetlights in Missoula County with LED fixtures in Rural Special Improvement Lighting Districts. In addition, City crews are replacing about 70 high-pressure sodium bulbs with LEDs in City-owned streetlights that are not in a lighting district. 

The project is part of a state-wide LED retrofit of 43,000 NorthWestern Energy streetlights in Montana. The project began in 2019, after the price of LED fixtures lowered and the investment became economical. LED lights use about half the electricity of high pressure sodium fixtures and last 2 to 3 times longer. In addition, manufacturers shifted production to LEDs and high pressure sodium fixtures are not widely available as replacements.

Contact NorthWestern Energy Community Relations Manager Steve Clawson at 406-544-1056 or with questions or concerns.

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About NorthWestern Energy (NYSE: NWE)
NorthWestern provides electricity and / or natural gas to approximately 734,800 customers in Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. We have generated and distributed electricity in South Dakota and distributed natural gas in South Dakota and Nebraska since 1923 and have generated and distributed electricity and distributed natural gas in Montana since 2002. More information on NorthWestern is available on the company’s website at

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