|Battling Light Pollution—From Smart Street Lamps to Dark-Sky Preserves|
|Thursday, 05 July 2012 10:00 | Written by Dawn Marshallsay | Blog Entry|
We save energy by turning off the light when we exit a room, but how about switching off street lights when we exit a road? The USA’s street lamps use enough electricity to power 1.4 million homes, and generate as much greenhouse gas as two million cars do in a year. By reducing the number and length of time streetlights are lit, we can save energy and money—and help save the planet.
Switching Off Street Lights
These practices are being implemented across the globe. Santa Rosa, California, plans to save $400,000 by removing 6,000 of its 15,000 street lamps, and turning 3,000 off between midnight and 5:30 a.m. Similar schemes are taking place in Montgomery (Pennsylvania), Dennis (Massachusetts) and South Portland (Maine), and in 2008 the Daily Mail reported that one in five local authorities in the UK are switching off some of their street lights.
Crime and Accidents
However, the report did not study the effect of existing street lights being switched off, and David Spiegelhalter, professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University, told the Daily Mail that the figures could have been skewed if the lights were installed after an abnormal amount of accidents had occurred on that road. After this, the number of accidents would probably have decreased, even if streetlights hadn’t been installed.
LED Street Lights
The RASC’s guidelines on creating a dark-sky area suggest using coniferous trees, buildings, berms (barriers) and bushes as natural shields against nearby lighting. They also suggest shielding the bulbs in streetlamps to prevent light shining above the horizon. This helps make stars more visible.
When it comes to limiting streetlights, there are many alternatives to blanket switch-offs. To quell fears over safety and security, cities have variously tried timers, switching off every other light only, installing timers, setting up lights to be turned on by cellphones on demand, replacing them with LED lights, creating light barriers and shielding bulbs to stop glare. With so many options, there is no reason we shouldn’t choose one, thereby reducing CO2 emissions, saving money and helping the surrounding wildlife. And, as a nightly bonus, we’ll get back our chance for a majestic peek at the stars.
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