The future’s orange: City considers amber street lights

AS LOCAL authorities all over the world move to white LED street lighting, one community at least is considering bucking the trend.

The city of Dunedin, the second largest on the south island of New Zealand, is exploring the possibility of installing amber LED lighting which will look similar to the current low-pressure sodium lighting.

City councillors have watched a demonstration of amber LED and will now have to decide on whether to choose white or amber in the coming months. The authority has set aside NZ$12million (USD$8.8 million, EUR 7.1 million) for the 10-year LED street lighting programme.

The decision comes at a time of heightened concern about the possible deleterious effects of white LED street lights on wellbeing. This week, the UK government’s health watchdog for England, Public Health England, was moved to dampen news reports about glare and the effect of blue light from LED street lights on the retina.

Leading the push for amber LEDs in Dunedin is local Dark Skies Group member Michael Broughton, who campaigns against light pollution.

Broughton wants the council to explore the use of amber instead of white, as it has a ‘much lower effect on humans, wildlife and the night sky'.

Broughton said since the council had decided to upgrade to LED there had been research published which outlined the negative effect white LEDs could possibly have on human health.

There was also a debate as to whether white LEDs obscured the stars at night, he said. Broughton said the council should be applauded for its moves to make Dunedin a so-called dark skies city but it should be careful not to rush and install a light which could have a negative effect.

Broughton emphasised that there was no perfect choice, as all LED coloured lights had downsides as well.

If Dunedin does adopt amber LED street lights it will be following in the footsteps of Flagstaff in the American state of Arizona.

Flagstaff made the transition to amber LEDs in a bid to minimise light pollution.



  • The Safer Cities conference will focus on lighting as a tool to improve security and well being in urban communities. It takes place on Wednesday 13 November and Thursday 14 November 2018 at the LuxLive 2018 exhibition at ExCeL London. Entry is free to those with urban lighting estates. More information HERE.

Comments 12

I truly believe that all this talk about amber lighting is better for the environment is just hogwash! Utter nonsense! Very dangerous for the human retina... accidents- people cannot see clearly when driving. Dig deeper and the answer is someone is lining his pocket. Trying to convince the Mayors of our Municipality etc. etc. that the Amber lighting is the future.... come off it, please. Sincerely, Elizabeth

It's commendable the Dunedin City Council has taken time to access the facts and consider their options. If only other municipalities did the same because there's much at stake. LED retrofits involve a hefty investment, they'll last a long time, yet the technology is in its infancy, and there's misunderstanding about its properties, application, risks and hazards. Unfortunately, the vast majority of existing LEDs (no matter the CCT), have drawbacks and flaws which need to be addressed and resolved BEFORE they can be considered fit for purpose. Until safe, effective and appropriate LED streetlights are available in New Zealand, and the NZTA who co-funds retrofits, updates their guidelines to include such lights on their m-30 list, councils are wise indeed to delay - and learn too, from the mistakes of other cities who rushed in, lured by the promise of energy, maintenance and operational savings, at the expense of greater, negative, long-term impact. Well done Dunedin for prioritising the health, safety, and life quality of our residents, the rich biodiversity upon which our tourism depends, the warm welcoming ambience of our beloved buildings and neighbourhoods, the aligned visionary waterfront development, and our future as the first Night Sky City in the southern hemisphere - with responsible, high benefit lighting.

Please light responsibly and think of nature and the environment.

Bruce Aleksander: Are these the "experienced lighting engineers" who have given us sky glow over our cities, spilled light into our properties and created glare in our eyes as we drive? Your statement "Instead of junk science that has concerned the city managers they should hire some real lighting people who can help them select the proper sources and fixtures to accomplish their goals." is not warranted. The increasing amount of research from universities and other agencies around the world in fields such as biology, health, economics and climate change indicates that artificial light at night is a real concern. This is new science - not junk science, is appropriate as the influence of natural light cycles on earth is strongly embedded across much of the life on this planet. Some in the lighting industry see this as an opportunity to produce true "quality lighting", not just more and brighter.

It’s too bad this city hasn’t properly consulted with experienced lighting engineers who might better explain street lighting to them. Who in their right might would consider Low Pressure Sodium, as mentioned in the article. Surely they mean HPS, instead. You couldn’t find your car under the monochromatic light of LPS. And they are probably too young to remember that all the street lights were Metal Halide before HPS (amber-ish) lights came along. No doubt there were those who complained about the difference in the correlated color temperature as loudly when they switched from incandescent to the blue-ish appearance of Metal Halide. Instead of junk science that has concerned the city managers, they should hire some real lighting people who can help them select the proper sources and fixtures to accomplish their goals.

HI Please quote us on 2 x Amber street lights Regards

I can say that the Dunedin proposal certainly meets with my approval. On the basis that street lighting is best dealt with under the KISS principal and that colour-changing is unlikely to be needed/good value I would definitely adopt a warmer tone for their lighting. My experience (I have them in my street) is that the trend for white street lighting is not a good one when applied to secondary/tertiary roads that are largely residential. I have no doubt that the apparent brightness of 'white' LED s is less comfortable and i actively do my best to keep it out of my house. My local lights do not dim (shame) but do switch off for the core night time hours (good). Personally, i would opt for a high-pressure sodium type of colour as this gives reasonable colour rendering and apparent brightness, whilst it s more circadian-friendly. The locale generally has quite a dark sky and the affect upon local sky viewing of these white LEDs is noticeable - dimming and/or presence detection would be a good thing. Given that fashion shows are not generally held under street lighting and most of our lives are not spent reporting criminal behaviour, I would prefer 'comfortable' and 'pleasant' to 'visually accurate' lighting.

Paul; the articles that you refer to is not about the LED spectra, per se, but about the process that the city failed to follow in purchasing and installing thenew lighting. It refers to the AMA statement, which is, at best, dated, in terms of technology, and, I believe, alarmist. As others state, primary causes of skyglow are poorly-designed and poorly-installed outdoor lighting, since overall ground reflectivity is well under 10%. Amber LEDs may result in terrible colour rendition, like sodium, which drastically reduces the visibility of pedestrians wearing any colour outside that wavelength (especially blue, like denim), and makes identification of colours impossible, in the event of accidents, or crimes... not, by any means, a panacea!

Surely this can just be done smarter? Presence detection would mean that the lights are off or dim when not required, with some Wi-Fi or other connectivity output colour can be changed if colour rendering is required (in the event of some kind of incident or even for a planned event). Surely, in the 21st century, with the technology available, we should be working smarter not dumber.

Light pollution and sky glow is mainly caused by light emitted upwards from the luminaires, not whether the source is yellow or white, LED or sodium. Some LEDs have blue peaks which can affect wildlife and the human circadian system but you would have to check that the yellow LEDs don't also contain the same peaks.

So, despite many studies indicating the problems with blue-rich light, and class actions in some cities in North America, the best you can come up with Forrest is "piffle"? Can you cite some sources to back-up your assertions? At least I can back mine up, for example:

As a long-time engineer in Commercial/Industrial LED lighting, I can categorically state that Mr. Broughton's concerns and claims are what we like to call "piffle".

Leave your comment