Cornwall Council lights the way

A groundbreaking street lighting programme, which was completed in 2012, has to date saved over £26 million in energy costs being passed on to residents, but more than saving money, the programme is also reducing Co2 emissions and enhancing our night skyscapes.

Cabinet member for Transport, Geoff Brown, said while it was widely recognised that street lighting was important in keeping roads safe, protecting people and deterring crime, Cornwall Council’s smart lighting system delivered many other benefits which were less well known. 

“In 2009, the Council recognised a need to reduce its electricity consumption for street lighting. But we also wanted to control the amount of light scatter causing the orange sky glow given we live in such a beautiful part of the country where dark skies provide us with spectacular nightscapes.

“We made the decision to upgrade 53,000 street lights across the county with an energy efficient, a white light system which is electronically controlled and cloud-based. It was a groundbreaking decision at the time and is still leading the way for other local authorities.

“To date, this has saved residents £26 million in energy costs, with these savings continuing to be delivered year on year as energy prices across the UK fluctuate, along with our gradual transition to LED lights.

“This translates to a reduction in carbon emissions of 5,500 tonnes of CO2 a year, and it means our night skies and darker with less light glow, which is good for stargazing,” Cllr Brown said.

The energy efficient equipment can self-report when it is faulty, which significantly reduces operating costs. Other key features of the street lighting system include:

•                     All of the lights are white light source which uses 60% less power and allows the human eye to recognise more colour and distinguish shapes more easily when compared to orange light

•                     Greater optical lantern performance which causes all of the light emitted to be directed below the horizon, and on to the highway or path, removing all-sky glow and light scatter

•                     Dynamic control systems have the additional ability to dim the lights by 70% & 50% if required

•                     An intelligent system, which is self-monitoring and self-reporting, and which can vary light levels based on traffic usage; switch lights on and off at any desired time and monitor the exact energy consumption of the units.

“This smart system means we can dim street lights in Cornwall at specific times, based on the road category and risk, which saves energy and reduces light pollution at the same time,” Cllr Brown said.

The Council works closely with organisations such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the Dark Sky’s Society and the Bat Conservation Trust to reduce light pollution, and Cornwall is one of the few areas of the UK to be designated as an International Dark Sky Landscape. It is hoped that the designation of Bodmin Moor will inspire the protection of other stretches of Cornwall’s dark night sky.

Cllr James, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Public Protection, said:“Light pollution harms our nocturnal environment for wildlife, by disrupting their breeding habits, and can have detrimental health impacts for humans by affecting their quality of sleep. Saving money is great but being able to reduce harmful impacts on human health and the environment is just as important.”

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