Dutch Town Is World’s First to Install Bat-friendly LED Street Lights

July 10, 2018

Rare bats in the Dutch town of Zuidhoek-Nieuwkoop can now go about their nocturnal business undisturbed courtesy of new connected LED street lights from Signify. The street lights use a special light recipe that is perceived by bats as darkness, but which provides enough illumination for residents, helping make the roads and pavements safer while being highly energy efficient.

Developing the recipe involved extensive research by Signify, the University of Wageningen, and NGOs active in this field of conservation. The lights emit a red colour and use a wavelength that doesn’t interfere with a bat’s internal compass. Normal street lights can affect a bat’s flight and overall nighttime behavior, as well as their insect prey, which tend to congregate around the lights.

Nieuwkoop is the first town in the world to use this type of smart LED street light. “When developing our unique housing program, our goal was to make the project as sustainable as possible while preserving our local bat species with minimal impact to their habitat,” explains Guus Elkhuizen a member of Nieuwkoop’s City Council. “We’ve managed to do this and kept our carbon footprint and energy consumption to a minimum.”

Zuidhoek-Nieuwkoop is home to many rare and vulnerable animal and plant specs. The town and its surrounding area is part of the Natura 2000, a network of nature protection areas across Europe comprising breeding and nesting sites for rare and threatened species. In 2011, Nieuwkoop began an initiative to build 89 new houses that meet the highest sustainability standards. The innovative street lighting was a response to research that revealed the site to be an important feeding ground for some rare bat species.

To further optimize light levels, the municipality installed Signify’s Interact City connected LED lighting systems and management software. The system enables close to real-time, remote management of LED light points that together provide energy savings of up to 70% compared to conventional High Pressure Sodium (HPS) street lighting. By being connected, the system allows each light point to be controlled remotely, enabling the authorities to respond to a request from a resident to turn up or lower the brightness of the lighting outside their home and able to quickly raise the light levels in the area to aid emergency services. And when the streets are empty very late at night, the authorities can dim the lights and cut unnecessary energy use.

Signify became the new company name of Philips Lighting in May 2018.

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