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Britain’s Highways Go Dark to Save Electricity

January 27, 2009 08:58 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
Britain is turning off the lights on some highways to save money and reduce energy use while contributing to a darker night sky.

Britain Turning Out Lights

In some areas of Britain, highway lighting is being turned off in an effort to reduce energy costs and cut down on carbon emissions, and the switch is also expected to “reduce light pollution of the night sky,” reports the Daily Telegraph.

But police and scientists have warned that turning off the lights will impact the safety of the area. Research in scientific journal the Cochrane Library, “found that street lighting reduced the number of fatal crashes by 77 per cent and other collisions by between 32 and 55 per cent.” Roadway lights will only be turned off in a few locations beginning in March, and only between midnight and 5 a.m.

Nine British councils have already taken similar steps, according to the Daily Telegraph, and similar safety concerns have been raised.

Last September, the Powys council turned off “most of its streetlights during the night to save money,” efforts that are expected to save the council over $300,000 per year. But residents, particularly the elderly, feared for their safety, reported the Times of London.

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Related Topic: Urban lighting impacts birds, fireflies

Turning off lights and reaping benefits is perhaps easier for urban areas, where hitting the switch inside skyscrapers and private residences can quickly lower energy costs and carbon emissions, without safety concerns.

In Boston, for example, the Lights Out program, which requires skyscraper lights to be off between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., is expected to save 25 percent of light energy. The initiative was also coordinated with the migratory bird season last fall. Birds often veer off course because of bright city lights from East Coast skyscrapers.

Fireflies are also impacted by the amount of light in the night sky. Researchers believe that urban sprawl has reduced firefly habitats and populations. Experts also suspect that fireflies may be sensitive to light pollution, which disrupts the flashing associated with their mating behavior.

Reference: Astronomy Guide


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