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Light pollution: how it affects living beings?

By March 25, 2021 No Comments

The energy consumption in today’s society is quite high. People need to find ways to reduce the energy consumption or at least, save energy wherever possible, else they and the future generations will have to face some serious problems.

The generation of energy itself creates different kinds of environmental problems. The production of greenhouse gases, air pollution, water pollution, and deforestation are just some examples of the environmental impact caused due to the energy generation. While many people may have heard of such environmental impacts, there are only a few who have heard of or are aware of light pollution.

Does light pollution affect living beings?

Light pollution is something that often goes unnoticed by people. Even if it is noticed, it is often neglected. Such kind of pollution, however, does affect us humans and other animals in a serious way! Let us gain some insight into this crucial problem.

What is light pollution?

Light pollution, in simple terms, is the presence of excessive artificial light in the night environment.

It often occurs in urban areas, usually in developed and developing countries. Check out the real image of the earth at night, on the NASA’s website here https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/earthday/gall_earth_night.html. By looking at the image, you will be able to clearly identify, which areas are more affected by light pollution. The United States, Europe, India, Eastern parts of China, South Korea, Japan, and several other developed and developing countries; they all create excessive light pollution.

The main reason why light pollution is excessive in these places is the existence of the conventional street lighting infrastructure. While street lights are essential for the urban population, as they illuminate the dark pathways at night, they are also the biggest source of light pollution.

Oftentimes, the existing street lights burn ceaselessly, not only creating light pollution but also increasing the harmful CO2 emissions. The current street lighting system is built to illuminate the streets all night, even when it is not needed, i.e., in the absence of a human being. The conventional street lighting system needs to be upgraded, or else it will continue creating light pollution.

Consequences of light pollution

Medical research suggests that light pollution may cause a variety of adverse health effects. This may include an increase in anxiety, physiological stress, fatigue and headache. Excessive light exposure may also affect the alertness and mood of a human being.

Light trespass, a form of light pollution that occurs when unwanted light enters your property, can cause problems such as sleep deprivation. Not having enough sleep can further factor towards health problems and deterioration of the quality of life.

Glare, another form of light pollution that arises due to bad outdoor lighting, can create unsafe driving conditions. Glare can often blind drivers or pedestrians partially and contribute to accidents.

Aside from human beings, artificial light also affects other organisms and ecosystems. It can cause physiological harm, alter competitive interactions, upset navigation and change predator-prey relations. Light pollution also promotes algae bloom, which can kill the lake’s plants and deteriorate water quality.

Finally, let us not forget about the carbon emissions. There are over 317 million streetlights globally, and the number will grow to 363 million by 2027! They all use electricity generated by burning fossil fuels. The carbon emissions (most of which was generated by burning fossil fuels) accounted for 32.5 gigatons in the year 2017 and looking at the global energy demand they will continue to rise in the coming years unless drastic measures are taken. Increase in carbon emissions means a rise in the earth’s surface temperature, which leads to harmful effects on our planet’s ecosystems, biodiversity and our livelihood.

How to reduce light pollution?

The only viable solution that exists today is to upgrade the existing street lighting infrastructure to intelligent street lighting infrastructure. Because streetlights are the biggest source of light pollution, making them smart is a wise move.

Intelligent street lighting adjusts the brightness of streetlights as per the movement of pedestrians, cyclists and cars. With the help of smart street light controllers and gateways along with a street light management software, city administration or municipalities or light operators can effortlessly control the public lighting as per the specific needs. This means that when the lighting requirement is low, for example, during the hours between midnight and five in the morning when there is hardly anyone around, the streetlights can be scheduled to burn at low brightness levels. It can substantially reduce light pollution, increase energy savings and inhibit CO2 emissions.

Some smart street lighting solutions, like the ones from Tvilight, come with sensor-based technology. This sensor-based, smart street lighting solution dims the streetlights when no one is detected but brightens the streetlights to a predefined level when a human presence is detected. Thus, such innovative street lighting solution radically saves energy, reduces CO2 emissions and curbs light pollution, all while keeping citizen safety and contentment at the center.

Other benefits of intelligent street lighting

In addition to curbing light pollution, increasing energy savings and reducing CO2 emissions, intelligent street lighting also lowers maintenance costs of public lighting infrastructure. With intelligent street lighting, every streetlight is connected, and when a failure is detected, alerts with the precise fail-point will be sent automatically to the maintenance crew. This eliminates periodic and false alert truck roll, reducing maintenance costs significantly.

Another benefit of upgrading to intelligent street lighting is laying a strong foundation for a smart city. Existing streetlights already form a city-wide network. Adding light sensors, controllers and gateways will upgrade the ordinary city-wide network into a smart city-wide network! Imagine the possibilities of adding existing and upcoming IoT (Internet of Things) devices to the smart city-wide network: CCTV cameras, noise detectors, traffic density sensors, air pollution sensors, EV charging points… One platform, numerous possibilities.

Bottom line

Global energy demand and energy consumption are increasing, and so are the adverse impacts on the environment due to energy generation. Of the various grave environmental impacts, light pollution is something that often goes noticed. Although light pollution doesn’t sound that awful, it does affect humans and animals in a serious way.

In order to reduce light pollution, something needs to be done about the biggest contributor to such pollution, the streetlights. Conventional streetlights burn all night, even when there’s no one around, creating light pollution, increasing energy consumption and rising carbon emissions. When adopting smart street lighting solutions, however, it is possible to overcome the demerits of conventional streetlights.

Intelligent street lighting solutions, which primarily consist of streetlight sensors, controllers, gateways, and management software (to manage streetlights), curb light pollution, save energy and reduce CO2 emissions, all without compromising citizen safety and contentment. In addition, they also form a perfect base for the upcoming IoT and smart city applications.

For that reason, citizens should urge their city administration or municipality to adopt intelligent street lighting, so that they can contribute towards the reduction of adverse environmental impacts and live a safe, healthy and pleasant urban live.

Boilerplate

Tvilight is a European market leader specialized in sensors, wireless lighting controllers, and connected light management solutions for outdoor applications. Our products create an independent open network that allows integrating a multitude of third-party applications and thus constitute a reliable, future-proof base for Smart Cities and the Internet of Things. The company has an installed base of more than 300 projects globally and has deployed thousands of intelligent street lighting devices in iconic cities and critical infrastructure around the world. Tvilight’s international projects include Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Dutch Railways, Port of Moerdijk, Seoul, Beijing, as well as some of the biggest German cities such as Düren, Münster, Cologne, Dortmund, and Berlin.