They're off. They're on. They're off. Action heats up in great British streetlight battle

The roundup over the last week on UK streets: Lights Off 2, Lights On 1.

As the debate continues on how best to save energy and on whether turning off lights increases or decreases crime, the city of Exeter and the town of Loughborough both scored for the “Offs,” while Gloucestershire kicked in with an “On”, taking the next step in a countywide LED deployment.

Exeter is resuming a plan to turn off lights between 12:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on minor, less busy roads. Ironically, it had to suspend the implementation earlier this year 'because the county’s contractors were having to deal with a large backlog of faulty street lights,' the Exeter Express and Echo reported. It will continue to light busy roads all night, but is cutting back in quiet neighbourhoods in an effort to save money and curb carbon emissions, as part of countywide initiative in Devon.

Likewise, Loughborough began switching off around half of all streetlights from midnight to 5:30 a.m., as part of a Leicestershire county lighting reduction aimed at trimming costs, the Loughborough Echo reported.

But Gloucestershire indicated it is moving ahead with a plan to install LED street lighting across the county. The county council, which initially passed the idea early this year, said on its website that at a recent cabinet meeting, 'Approval was given for the council to go to the market and invite proposals for a 12 year contract to replace our street lighting with LED technology.'

The county hopes to start the contract in April 201, to begin installing the streelights a few months later and to complete installation within 3-to-5 years after that. The contract would include maintenance.

Gloucestershire has played on both sides in the lighting debate, as it has been dimming lights on main roads and has implemented partial night lighting in many of its parishes as it tries to reduce the annual £2 million that its 60,000 streetlights consume in electricity. But now, in its own words, LED benefits will include:

  • 'Up to 50% reduction in energy usage'
  • 'They can also be dimmed to any level of light output with a corresponding decrease in energy use (In contrast, the dimming of conventional street lighting to 50% on traffic routes has only reduced energy use by 35%)'
  • 'Low maintenance - 70% reduction in street light lamp maintenance costs'
  • 'Better quality of light (more like daylight)'
  • 'Fewer faults'
  • 'Less light pollution (because of the focused lighting)'

The move to LEDs in Glousterschire echoes similar deployments in many localities, most recently the borough of Wigan. Likewise, others like Essex and Warwickshire have experimented with turning off lights.

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Photo: The docks in Gloucester have a certain glow at night, but how will the county roads look bathed in LED lights? Image is from Saffron Blaze via Wikimedia.