As towns have grown over recent years, so has the number of street lights – meaning that costs have also grown in proportion. Nowadays in Germany, there is one street light each seven citizens. That’s around 10 million street lights, all consuming electricity. With figures on this scale, saving energy is all the more important – not least because energy costs like these are burdening council budgets in a time of declining revenues. The Steinbeis Transfer Center for Identification Media & Identification Management has been investigating various technical solutions.
In 2009, the average amount of electricity consumed by street lighting for a town of around 25,000 inhabitants was 991.811 kWh. The Steinbeis experts in Müllheim used figures like these as a starting point to develop street lights using a more economical light source. These street lights, which are now about to enter mass production, can reduce electricity costs by at least 45% – or even by 100% in the case of the selfsufficient “POI” systems. It goes without saying that this technology substantially lowers operating costs for street lighting. POI stands for Point of Illumination, a type of lamp that uses LED and photovoltaic technology. There are several good arguments for using this new solution – the financial benefits first, but also environmental considerations. The lamps are powered by solar energy, which they use extremely conservatively. As well as being good for the environment, this is also good for operator budgets. “Light into light” is how Armin Bäuerle, director of the Steinbeis Transfer Center, described this innovative lighting technology. The built-in photovoltaic panel generates the electricity that powers the LED array. As expected, this solution eases the burden that street lighting places on council budgets. These self-sufficient, solar-powered lights are especially ideal for illuminating streets and facilities which lie outside inner-city areas, as they break up with the hassle and expense of laying electric cables. So POI systems can operate independently, without needing to connect to the electricity infrastructure. In buildings and facilities where lights are expected to almost pay for themselves, longevity and low servicing requirements play a major role. When it comes to lifetime, conventional street lights simply cannot compete with POI lamps – at around 50,000 hours, their working life is almost five times longer.
Aside from financial issues, the light from POI lamps also attracts far fewer nocturnal insects. As it is reflected and indirect, the light in POI lamps can also be pointed precisely where it is needed, thereby avoiding unnecessary light pollution in towns and communities.
“Our knowledge and experience in electronics, combined with the expertise of the Steinbeis Transfer Center, creates a perfect foundation for developing customer-oriented solutions. This makes us a major competence center for the latest LED lighting solutions. Reducing CO2 emissions is vitally important, so this is a key step and a small contribution towards conserving our environment for future generations,” explains Ottmar Flach, head of Atlantik Elektronik GmbH and a partner in the POI project. “We see further opportunities for this self-powering lighting technology, not just in public areas,” adds Markus Biechele (biechele infra consult), a Freiburg-based engineer and planner who is the third partner in the project. “For instance, private and industrial applications.”
The upcoming Light for Africa project is the team’s first step in bringing this technology to new markets using partnership-based approaches. The design of the lights, which literally pay for themselves, has been adapted to the local culture.