26 January, 2011

Surrey Street Light Improvements

Surrey Street Lighting Improvements Letter
We had this letter posted through the front door the other day (a little bit out of the blue) letting us know that all of Surrey's streetlights are being replaced with environmentally friendly "smart lamps"...interestingly, not only is our little part of Surrey the first part of the county to get them (the rest being rolled out gradually over the next five years), but it turns out that Surrey is the first part of Great Britain to do this...(the words "Guinea" and "Pig" can't help but plop uncomfortably into the worry-centre of my mind)...meh...

There are (admittedly) a lot of positives - All the lights will be (individually) linked to a central giant "dimmer switch" in Guildford, so rather than each light just switching itself off and on in good time for dusk (based on a mechanical timer), when sunset approaches (which obviously varies day-to-day throughout the year) Guildford control center can just issue the on/off command to the relevant area, then, at the sort of time when everyone is usually in bed (2300hrs) they dim the lights to a soothing level (saving lots of energy) until the first early risers might need to be setting off to work (about 0530hrs)...or, and I speculate here, if Police/Fire Brigade/Ambulance service suddenly need to flood an area with light (e.g. to catch an escaping criminal, or deal with an accident) this can be achieved just as easily. So all good (in theory) thus far, but lets take a look at the (predicted) socio/environmental impact-
  • The new lights are spotlights, pointing directly at the floor - so much less ambient light pollution should occur
  • Lights can be kept bright in areas of need (underpasses/trouble hotspots) and dimmed elsewhere
  • Lower electricity bills mean a collective saving of around £12 million in tax (over the next 25 years)
  • We also stop 60,000 tons of carbon flooding the atmosphere (same period), which is actually quite a mind-bogglingly large amount when you stop to think about it
Nothing to complain about there then, but there are actually just a couple of things that do worry me - The lights are *white* and are (and I quote) "much brighter" than the existing (yellow/orange) sodium lights we have all grown up with. We'll have to see how this one pans out, but actually I quite like it being dark at night (for no particular reason other than that it is supposed to be dark at night)...I guess I'm just not sure I want the whole of Surrey to resemble the inside of a football stadium...secondly (and lastly) especially as all this is *extremely* new (and Murphy's law states that there is *always* at least one bug) I'm sure there will be "issues" to iron out...how long until the system at Guildford mucks up and plunges the whole of Redhill into complete blackness at 7pm, or we are awoken at 3am by blazing lights shining through the curtains (making us think we are being abducted by aliens à la Close Encounters)...

I'll keep you posted with developments as they occur, but it looks like we'll be all converted (to the most modern street lighting system in the UK) within the next two weeks...oo-er! ;)

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