Lisa Poole/AP
The Liberty Clipper schooner, of Boston, sails past the Boston skyline

‘Lights Out’ in Boston Goes Beyond Energy Conservation

September 04, 2008 12:47 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Boston’s plan to turn off skyscraper lights will not only conserve energy, but draws attention to other issues, including bird migration patterns and light pollution.

Boston Dims the Lights

Boston has undertaken a two-month initiative to conserve electricity by shutting off lights at 34 city skyscrapers between the Back Bay and South Boston waterfront, including the well-known Hancock building and Prudential Tower. According to The Boston Globe, nearly 25 percent of light energy will be saved thanks to the program.

Inside each of the buildings, lights above the 30th floor must be off from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. through October 31. City officials plan to make the program permanent in every high-rise building. According to the Globe, Beantown could be the first city to keep the lights off year-round.

The program is “also timed to take effect during the fall’s migratory bird season,” the Globe reports. Birds often veer off course because of bright city lights from East Coast skyscrapers.

Although birds typically follow stars while navigating at night, cloud cover can block the natural light. City lights then become attractive to birds, but also disorient them. Birds often crash into lit buildings or “drop from exhaustion” after circling too many times, according to an article published by the University of Minnesota News.

Boston’s plan will not only aid energy conservation efforts and perhaps improve migratory conditions for birds, but could also help reduce light pollution, a problem concerning astronomers around the world, says the Astronomical Society of South Australia.

One example of light pollution is sky glow, a condition caused by light that escapes upward, “scattering into the atmosphere” and obstructing views of the night sky for astronomers and casual star-gazers alike.

Background: Cities shunning lights

Boston is not the first city to try cutting back on lighting. A program called Earth Hour began in Sydney, where 2,100 businesses turned off their lights for one hour on March 31, 2007. In 2008, the movement spread globally.

In October 2007, Los Angeles tried an hour with no lights, which was expected to save 15 percent of typical daily energy, and potentially enough power to support 2,500 homes for a full year.

Madison, Wisconsin, joined the movement in March 2008, when residents were asked to turn off their lights for one Saturday evening. Local leaders expressed hope that the program would encourage people to be aware of their energy use throughout the year.

Related Topic: Other conservation efforts


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