Friday, 6 November 2009

Lighting the way

Finding ways of addressing the energy use of streetlighting has been an ongoing theme of the Kirklees Green Councillors over the last ten years. It is a huge issue and represents a significant proportion of the Councils carbon emissions. Early experiments were off grid solar streetlights on Malvern Rise, Primrose Hill. They worked, but they would never replace a standard streetlight in tems of illumination but ideal for places where an electrical connection is difficult. A hybrolight, combining wind and PV power for off grid locations is on a footpath between Close Hill Lane and Towngate is up and running and justified on the basis of the avoided costs of not connecting a long electrical connection. Our first grid connected solar streetlights were installed this year on Edale Avenue and they perform well and are comparable with a standard streetlight in terms of performance. There is an 'however' however and it is to question why have a streetlight connected to the grid which simply acts as a platform for a solar panel why not just stick a load of solar panels on top of a building instead of lots of little ones on top of individual streetlights. I guess the answer to this is to imagine them as part of a very intensively localised energy network utilising all available space to generate the maximum amount of electrical power. That is clearly not where we are at the moment but probably in my ideal scenario is where I would like us to be. Back to the 'here and now' we need to reduce the carbon emissions associated with streetlights quickly.

There is a whole agenda at the moment around dimming and turning off street lights in the early hours of the morning in isolated spots say between 2 and 6 in the morning. The other approach is to get streetlights which produce the same amount of light but use less power by utilising LED technology. We have trialled LED Streetlights with a Green Party initiative with 29 columns in the Highfields area of the ward and they are working fine (apart from the one pictured which was on during the day!).

Our next, more low tech, solution is to put stickers on lighting columns telling people who to ring if the light is on during the day (dayburner) or isn't working at all. I have reported stacks of dayburners over the years to Kirklees Highways but the quicker they are noticed and reported the better and these stickers will help.

One last thought. Each year we go through a portion of space littered with dust particles sometimes resulting in spectacular meteor showers. Why not turn off streetlights for a few hours in the late evening/ early hours of the morning on that day, so we can have a free meteor show for the area without the distractions of light pollution.

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