LIGHTS OUT TO SAVE MONEY
I see in the news that various councils and highways authorities are switching on to switching off street lights through the dead of night. The move has been prompted by increasing electricity costs but has the added benefits of reducing light pollution, saving energy and reducing the authority's carbon footprint.
Powys council in Wales have started to switch off 2 out of 3 street lights in "non-sensitive" areas to try and offset energy price increases of around 35%.
With no change the council expect the annual cost of powering Powys' street lighting to increase from £175,000 to £500,000.
By turning off street lights they hope to save £225,000 on their annual electricity bill!
The "big switch off" which started in about mid September should cut Powys Council's carbon emissions by about 1,100 tonnes and will reduce light pollution as well.
The Council, which is responsible for 14,000 street lights, looked at the option of turning off lights for part of the night but decided that this would not have a big enough energy saving benefit and decide to simply switch a proportion of their lights off completely.
Other similar initiatives have been set up in West Sussex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire and Essex. Councils around the country are watching with interest to see how they get on. Public reaction has been mixed with both strong support and strong opposition.
HIGHWAYS AGENCY PLAN
The Highways Agency have also just announced plans to turn off street lights on major roads between midnight and 5 am in a new strategy to be released in spring 2009.
The move is intended to save money and reduce carbon emissions.
Research is being done to find out if and where lights can be turned out without compromising road safety. Recent studies show that night time motorway lighting reduces the risk accidents by 10% - much less than the previously accepted figure of nearer 30%
We do seem to spend a huge amount of money and waste enormous amounts of energy on lighting deserted streets and roads through the dead of night. It is only sensible to reduce lighting in all areas except where it is essential for security and safety of both the public and road users.
I have been involved with a few renewable energy projects providing solar powered lighting for car parks and street signs. Our approach when working on these projects is always to work out how we can minimise the amount of power that is required at the outset. Renewable energy is still relatively expensive so this keeps the cost down and ensures a neat solution. This process often starts with the spec of the light itself. We normally use energy saving low wattage lights or increasingly we use LEDs. We then move onto looking at ways of minimising lighting times either with movement sensors, timers or touch buttons.
I believe this approach should be taken with external lighting systems even when it is powered with mains power. The fact that there is "plenty of" mains power and it is cheap has made it all to easy to not think too hard about this.
I wish the authorities luck with their endeavours and hope to see sensible reductions in street lighting throughout the country.
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Many thanks to Ian Britton on Freefoto.com for the picture : http://www.freefoto.com .