Europe’s answer to saving energy by imposing blackouts on the streets may be avoided with the commercialization of smart street lights that sense when they are needed and dim when they are not.
The intelligent streetlight system, designed by Dutch Delft University of Technology, using motion sensing technology that automatically dims streetlights to 20% power when no pedestrians or vehicles are in the vicinity—and the idea is ready to go commercial.
Europe pays over $13 billion a year powering streetlights, and this massive sum accounts for more than 40% of government energy bills. From another perspective, we’re talking about 40 million tons of CO2 emissions annually, equal to that of 20 million cars. (Related article: IKEA Tries to Simplify Solar)
For now, European cities are contemplating the imposition of blackouts on the streets after midnight in rural and residential areas. But the new smart lighting technology could avoid this.
Pilot testing of the intelligence streetlight system proved successful at the Delft University campus, and since then, the project has been implemented in four municipalities in the Netherlands and one in Ireland, with many more ready to come online.
The system is said to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions by up to 80%, while at the same time lowering maintenance costs and reducing light pollution.
As a person or car approaches, their movement is detected by the closest streetlight, and its output goes up to 100%. (Related article: Could Developments at Volvo Change the Future of Electric Vehicles)
Because the lights are all wirelessly linked to one another, the surrounding lights also come on, and only go back down to 20% pedestrian or vehicle traffic has passed. The technology distinguishes between people and smaller animals, like cats and mice. The system also allows for individual configuration of lighting levels at different places on a street, based on tendencies and needs.
Chintan Shah, who designed the system, told reporters that municipalities utilizing the system should see it paying for itself within three to four years, particularly because aside from energy savings we are looking at operational and maintenance savings of up to 50%.
Several other European countries are working independently on their own intelligent streetlight systems. Denmark’s capital Copenhagen plans to connect 20,000 smart street lights by next year, while efforts are also underway Finland.