Sunday 26 October 2008

Night of the Night

Last night was the "Nacht van de Nacht" - "Night of the night." It's a campaign about light pollution, which has effects on night time animals and of course makes life difficult for astronomers. Various activities were organised around the country. Here in Assen we had a choice of a walk in the woods or a bike ride. A couple of dozen people turned up for the bike ride, which covered about 10 km over an hour, including lots of stops. It was lead by a council employee who showed off the new initiatives in street lighting.

Assen is aiming to be "carbon neutral" by 2020. As part of this effort the council is installing lower energy LED street lighting across the city. These produce more light per watt of electricity, and are more directional meaning that less is scattered across the sky (meaning that yet more of a reduction in consumption is possible). They cost money to install, but over time, they save a lot of money and a lot of CO2 production.

There are further innovations. While most of the lighting is white, there are also plans to install green lighting in some places. These can be even lower in energy consumption because the human eye is most sensitive to green light.

There was also talk of an idea where lights would dim and brighten depending on the state of an infra-red sensor on the pole. This means that energy could be saved due to the light being dimmed on the bike path where there are no people, but that the lighting would be bright as you approach and dim again after you've passed.

All of these things also benefit wildlife and make life better for astronomers.

We also saw solar powered lamps by cycle parking. While it costs around a thousand Euros to put in a normal pole, vs 2100 for a solar pole, no electricity supply has to be wired up, which can be expensive to do (a long time ago in another life I was involved in the preliminary design of some solar powered street furniture and we found it could work out cheaper than wiring to the mains).

As ever there was also talk of safety. Social safety for cyclists and pedestrians is improved by having good lighting. If you want people to cycle you have to provide decent street lights.

All of these things also benefit wildlife and make life better for astronomers. Given the number of advantages, it would seem rather silly not to be making these changes.

The tour ended up with a very welcome cup of hot chocolate and a slice of cake.

If you cycle after dark, then good quality bicycle lights are of course also essential for safety, as well as to see where you're going.

Assen, and the Netherlands in general, has a lot of environmental innovation which I've not seen in other places I've lived. I've written up some of it before.

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