Keeping the lights down low in Co Kerry, particularly where cost and demand are concerned, will be the way forward in a new public lighting policy implemented by the local authority yesterday.
Street lighting is costing Kerry County Council €2m yearly, nearly half its total energy bill. However, a move to provide new energy efficient or LED lighting would mean local lighting would be more focused in areas where needed.
Charlie O’Sullivan, the operations director, said public lighting was a serious challenge with the number of street lights trebling in less than 20 years.
In 1998 there were 4,100 public lights in Kerry, now it has 12,737 with many needing to be replaced.
With increasing demand for street lights, many needed to be dimmed, the council meeting was told.
New public lights would be installed in towns and villages only where the present level of illumination was “clearly inadequate”.
Climate change and rising sea levels in Kerry had provided one of the key reasons for a review of the public lighting policy, the meeting heard.
“On average a 250 watt public light accounts for one tonne of C02 gas emissions,” said Mr O’Sullivan.
Kerry however, had a further reason to move to a less glaring system: its status of a 700sq km area designated as an international Dark Sky Reserve — having some of the world’s best views of stars at night.
In the interests of astro-tourism the plan now was to take the glare out of the 400 lights in the core reserve area of Kells to Caherdaniel, an area where Star Wars had been filmed.
“Where resources allow the intention is to replace the public lighting system throughout Kerry with a more energy efficient, money saving, dark-sky compliant lighting system,” said Mr O’Sullivan.
It cost over €600,000 to maintain lighting and over €1.3m in usage.
New LED lights, it was stated, would pay for themselves as they needed little maintenance and lasted longer. A 70W SON lantern public light on a 6m steel column costs €1,469 but a 34W LED lantern would cost less in the long term.
Fianna Fáil councillor John Francis Flynn said the Dark Sky Reserve should not be an excuse for not providing lights. He did not want people in Killorglin falling over themselves because they could not see where they were going.
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