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Street lighting and smart solutions: remote control, LEDs and renewable energies

Street lighting is an everyday and necessary element in our lives. Despite all its advantages, it also has some disadvantages. However, technological advances such as LED lights and smart control systems are increasingly helping to make lighting more environmentally friendly while reducing electricity bills.

Here you will learn what public lighting is, the current regulations in Spain, its main advantages and disadvantages, and how remote control and monitoring systems, renewable energy and LED luminaires help to increase safety, effectiveness and efficiency and reduce the environmental impact and economic costs of this service.


WHAT IS STREET LIGHTING?

Street lighting is a public service that serves to illuminate public streets, public parks and other areas of free circulation for which no natural or legal person under private or public law is responsible. The general purpose of street lighting is to provide adequate visibility for the normal and proper development of activities in these spaces.


WHAT REGULATIONS APPLY TO STREET LIGHTING IN SPAIN?

In Spain, public lighting as part of outdoor lighting is governed by Royal Decree 1890/2008 of 14 November, which approved the Regulation on the Energy Efficiency of Outdoor Lighting Installations and the complementary technical instructions EA-01 to EA-07.

This regulation describes, among other things, the technical conditions that outdoor lighting installations must meet in order to improve their efficiency, achieve energy savings and consequently reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It also sets out the conditions for limiting night-time light glare, light pollution and the reduction of disturbing or intrusive light that can be caused by such installations.

The supplementary technical instructions were added at a later date to take into account the latest advances in lighting technology, which contribute significantly to improving the energy efficiency of outdoor lighting systems. These advances include LED (Light Emitters Diode) based technologies as well as light source control systems that allow the luminous flux to be adjusted to the existing environmental and ambient conditions. All these developments have also been reflected at the European level in Directive 2009/125/EC, which establishes a framework for setting ecodesign requirements for energy-related products, including light sources.

All these changes in the legal framework, as well as the authorisation of the commissioning of energy service providers by the public administration, have changed and will continue to change the installations we know today for lighting our parks, streets and paths.


WHAT IS THE COST OF PUBLIC LIGHTING?

Public lighting can account for 40-50% of a municipality's energy consumption. Moreover, due to urban development, this value has increased significantly in recent decades. According to the IDAE (Institute for Diversification and Saving of Energy), Spain has almost 9 million light points with an average power of 156W, so the annual consumption of municipalities is approximately 5,296 GWh.


BENEFITS OF STREET LIGHTING

The efficient and rational use of light contributes to the social and economic development of a community. The main benefits of lighting are:

  • To allow the transit of pedestrians and vehicles on public roads and areas.
  • To ensure greater safety when walking or circulating in these places.
  • In addition, by artificially extending the hours without sunlight, it also contributes to other activities in cities and towns, such as commerce and tourism.


DISADVANTAGES OF STREET LIGHTING

The main disadvantages of street lighting are:

  • Light pollution can cause health problems such as sleep disturbance, but it can also cause irreversible damage to the fauna of the surrounding area, as it can, for example, disrupt the migratory behaviour of birds.
  • If used improperly, effects such as night-time glare can lead to traffic accidents.
  • The environmental impact of the more than 300 million streetlights in the world.

However, as mentioned earlier, the introduction of new technologies and efficient measures to reduce both pollution and energy consumption can help minimise (or solve) these major problems of public lighting. These are listed below.


REMOTE CONTROL SYSTEMS, RENEWABLE ENERGIES AND LED LAMPS IN STREET LIGHTING

Remote control systems, renewable energies and LED lamps are the three basic elements to improve luminosity and reduce consumption in public lighting.


LED lamps, the best alternative for public lighting

LED luminaires have numerous advantages, some of which we highlight:

  • Zoning: the light can be focused on the areas that need it, so they reduce or avoid light pollution.
  • They have a much lower energy consumption than the old streetlights or lamps used in public lighting, such as fluorescent lamps, mercury vapour lamps, sodium vapour lamps, mercury lamps with metal halogens and induction discharge lamps. They therefore represent an enormous saving in the energy budget.
  • Economical service life: Their service life is much longer than that of the above-mentioned lamps. This in turn leads to greater safety in traffic and avoids the expense of changing incandescent lamps and the associated maintenance.
  • High weather resistance: LED outdoor luminaires are not equipped with a glass bottle and are therefore very resistant to external influences. In addition, the housing is designed to prevent dirt and water from accumulating, which could reduce cooling performance. In addition, they can be used in almost all weather conditions.
  • Excellent colour rendering index and a hue that can be matched to a specific lamp application.


The use of renewable energy in street lighting

One of the most important measures to reduce the impact of street lighting on the environment is to replace traditional lights with those powered by renewable energy. The main types of renewable energy used in public lighting are solar and wind.

  • Solar luminaires have solar panels (photovoltaic) built into their structure that efficiently collect sunlight during the day and store the energy in a battery system. This battery releases this energy to the light source at night.

Today, there is a wide range of products and solutions: from lighting for small areas to larger areas, systems with or without a pole, systems with motion detectors... Solar LED luminaires have become particularly popular in recent years, as they combine the advantages of LED luminaires with a power supply that is not dependent on fossil fuels and is therefore even more environmentally friendly.

  • Wind luminaires have a wind turbine that uses wind currents to generate electricity. In areas where the wind blows irregularly, it is possible to install street lights that combine solar and wind energy.

These types of lights are independent of the grid infrastructure, meaning they can be installed in rural areas where grids are weak or there are frequent interruptions and outages of conventional electricity.

They are superior to conventional lighting systems in terms of energy efficiency, operation, maintenance, sustainability and light depreciation.

Finally, they are constantly evolving technologies that are becoming cheaper.


Remote management systems in street lighting

Remote management and monitoring systems for public lighting allow these devices to be monitored and controlled remotely. The intelligent management of public lighting is usually done via a simple and intuitive user interface (installed on control devices such as mobile phones, tablets and computers), which allows actions such as:

  • Switch on, switch off and dim each of the luminaires or lines, according to actual needs.
  • Monitor the most important electrical parameters.
  • Receive warnings when malfunctions are detected.
  • Carry out hourly programming, either by installing presence and/or brightness sensors or by predefined orders or commands executed by the interface.
  • Create consumption reports.
  • Optimise parameters to reduce power consumption.
  • The information collected by the devices can be analysed (Big Data, Machine Learning...) to improve services and adapt them to citizens' needs.


CONCLUSION 

The use of these solutions in public lighting allows a high potential for savings in electricity consumption in this type of installation with a simple payback period of 5 to 10 years. The main effects are manifested in the reduction of high levels of illumination (especially late at night), the improvement of lighting quality and the regulation and control of switching on and off of the installation. No less important is their contribution to the sustainability of cities. 


At Luxsystems, we have extensive experience both in the design of lighting for streets and public spaces and in studies of energy and economic savings from the implementation of LED lighting. In the field of remote management, we work with leading systems of proven reliability, with implementations in major European and Latin American cities. These systems combine remote management with power quality management systems, geographic information systems (GIS) and management of the municipal inventory and its preventive and corrective maintenance. 

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