Cutting Emissions with Light? Copenhagen Adopts Smart Street Lamps
The Danish city of Copenhagen has decided to host a massive experiment to determine the effectiveness of so-called "smart lights" - energy efficient street lamps that could cut carbon emissions and even help monitor an urban setting.
Copenhagen intends to be a "role model for many of the world's cities when it come to sustainable town development," according to the country of Denmark's official website.
As a rising star for green technologies, the city's planners had recently announced a climate change plan that intends to make Copenhagen "carbon neutral" by 2025, cutting carbon emissions to insignificant levels. The city has already declared that it is set to slash its already low emissions by 20 percent by next year, taking the first steps towards its ultimate goal.
But to become utterly devoid of all but the most insignificant of carbon dioxide emissions, the city will have to overhaul and reinvent some of the most iconic parts of city-life.
Street lamps, for one, are due for some drastic changes.
The experimental laboratory called the Danish Outdoor Lighting Lab (DOLL) - a "GreenLab" by Photonics - will be open in a little over a month, and is expected to cover 5.7 miles (9.2 km) of road in the suburb of Albertslund. The streetlamps along this stretch of road will be replaced with "smart lights" and will be closely observed.
What's most remarkable about this experiment is that it's a virtual free-for-all of competing smart technology designs. According to Inhbabitat, a site that focuses on green architecture and design, 25 companies have already reserved space to field test their products, with each lamp receiving its own IP address so they can be monitored remotely.
So what's so great about a smart light? Lighting has been found to account for about six percent of global carbon emissions, a worrisome greenhouse gas. According to New Scientist, Los Angeles pumped out 111,000 metric tons of carbon to keep its streets lit, simultaneously costing the city and estimated $15 million.
The DOLL project site says these new smart light products could handily cut costs and emissions simply by using more efficient LED (light-emitting diode) technologies and dimming lights when no one is around.
Robert Karlicek, the director of the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, told New Scientist that these lamps could even help monitor city life, sensing potentially dangerous toxins in the air or noticing peculiar street activity that may warrant police attention.
"Really smart street light systems are going to be much more about the sensors the street lights have, than the LEDs that happen to be in them. The technology is getting very mature very quickly," he said.