Bright ideas for street lighting

street lighting, energy efficiency, electricity consumptionWhen public authorities assess how they can cut costs through energy efficiency schemes, one area of electricity consumption that has traditionally been overlooked is street lighting. However, recent developments indicate that local authorities are taking the potential of retrofitting street lights more seriously.

Considering that street lighting is switched on for around half the time in most built-up areas, it is indeed surprising that it has not been tackled from an energy efficiency perspective sooner.

San Diego monster project

The city of San Diego has hit the headlines this month with its vast scheme to improve its street lighting. Over the next 17 months the city is to phase out its sodium vapor street lights and replace them with energy efficient induction models. The scheme will impact 35,000 lights – 80 percent of the city’s street lighting.

According to the Mayor’s office the initiative will save the city’s coffers $2.2 million a year. Mayor Jerry Sanders said, “This project was a major win for San Diego, by every measure, financially, environmentally, and from a public-safety perspective.”

The firm carrying out the $16 million installation has said the entire 610 tons of material discarded as part of the project will be recycled.

North of the border, Welland in Ontario is to replace 4,300 street lights and 2,410 decorative fixtures with light-emitting diodes (LED). In the first year alone the retrofit is set to save the city over C$220,000 ($212,000) in energy costs and a further C$160,000 ($154,000) in maintenance costs. The city is expected to save C$2.38 million ($2.3 million) over the entire 15-year life of the contract.

Calgary the pioneer

Both the San Diego scheme and the smaller Welland initiative are following in the footsteps of the groundbreaking Calgary street light project that kicked off almost a decade ago.

Calgary was the first city in North America to launch a major residential street light retrofit program. Starting in 2002, the retrofit was intended to replace older, inefficient street lights with lower wattage, flat lens fixtures. Since the beginning of the program, over 37,500 street lights have been retrofitted in Calgary, saving 107 GWh of energy, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 124,000 tons and saving C$11 million from reduced energy consumption.

Before the retrofit, Calgary’s street lighting levels directed skywards were among the highest in North America.

Smart street lighting

In Europe, Norwegian capital Oslo is to make its street lighting more intelligent. Under a new project unveiled last week, its street lights will be network controlled, enabling targeted dimming, automatic switching and failure identification.

The scheme, which is expected to be finished by the end of next year, will see all of the city’s 65,000 street lights controlled by and Echelon-based system, and will comprise 750 street light control cabinets dotted around Oslo.

Cost issues

Although retrofitting brings down costs in the long term, the initial capital outlay can prove problematic. Take Ludhiana in India, for example. The local authority originally wanted to curb street light energy consumption by installing a voltage controller system. This week it emerged Ludhiana would not have such a system, but would instead install LED lighting.

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