Drivers crossing the state border when heading north from Bremerhaven towards Lower Saxony will hardly be able to believe their eyes: Just moments before, the road scene had appeared in the usual milky, always slightly foggy orange light from sodium vapour lamps, but now everything appears vivid and somehow true to life. Vehicles passing by, which previously all appeared as a matte light or dark brown, are now brightly coloured, as is the clothing on the passers-by on the pavement, no matter where you are in the town. Welcome to Geestland!
Electricity consumption of street lights reduced by 70 percent
'We have now upgraded all of the 4,800 street lights in Geestland to LED', explains Ludwig Augenthaler. As the civil engineer for roads, he is also responsible for street lighting in his municipality. 'All lamps are a standard neutral white of 4,000 Kelvin.' Originally from Lower Bavaria, he has worked in the north of Lower Saxony for over two decades now. 'In Germany and Europe, we are the very first to convert entirely to this new technology', he adds proudly. Speaking to him, one quickly realises that a sustainable approach to energy and climate protection are truly important to him.
Comparison of old and new lighting
On a walk through the town, the lighting specialist identifies various lamp models, describes their advantages, and constantly points out the enormous savings potential. He also reported on this potential in September 2015 as a speaker at the dena Street Lighting Roadshow in Hamburg. At the event, his calculations not only astonished a number of his colleagues from the technical sector, but also decision-makers from various municipalities who attended the event. At the time, he calculated a value of 60 percent, but since then has corrected his calculations: savings are actually higher, and Geestland has reduced its electricity consumption for street lighting by 70 percent, reports Augenthaler.
The reduced electricity requirements not only benefit the environment, but also the town's coffers. Instead of the annual 1.2 million kWh of electricity which the town used to consume with the older lighting technology, it now only consumes less than 400,000 kWh. This is good for the municipal budget — and for new investments, such as in education or for social projects.
Inefficient lighting in a third of German municipalities
According to a survey commissioned by dena on just under 1,000 municipalities, the number of towns and local communities with a high number of high-pressure mercury lamps in use has indeed decreased since 2012, which is mainly due to the EU-wide prohibition on their continued production after 2015. Nevertheless, at present around 30 per cent of towns and municipalities are still using medium to high levels of these old, inefficient lamps. This is exactly where the dena Roadshow comes in: It aims to convince more municipalities to switch to the efficient alternatives.
“Geestland demonstrates what is possible.”
'Examples such as Geestland show what is possible', confirms Dr Karsten Lindloff, project director and co-organiser of the Roadshow for LED Street Lighting , which dena launched at the end of 2013 as part of the its Energy Efficiency Campaign. . With an integrated campaign, committed partners, and information for all 11,000 municipalities in Germany, dena has since been providing information on switching from old energy guzzlers to sustainable — and currently increasingly lower-priced — LED lamps. 'Our goal is to convince. But above all, we want to create trust in the new technology and point out opportunities and potential in a manufacturer-independent manner', explains Karsten Lindloff.
Since then, the series of events has reached around 1,700 participants, and is unparalleled in its field. In 15 towns scattered clear across Germany, visitors are greeted with a comprehensive programme of talks with speakers and best practice examples such as Geestland. Furthermore, it is accompanied by an exhibition with the latest lighting technology from over a dozen manufacturers. In addition, expert dialogues help the specialist audience discover more about the specifics of launching a modernisation, as well as about financing and funding options, such as offers from the KfW Group or the project sponsor Jülich . The latter funds investment in street lighting as part of the climate protection initiative of the Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMUB). Investments in street lighting.
“Many decision-makers are afraid of making mistakes and being held to account for them.”
Investments pay off
In particular, the issue of financing concerns many municipal decision-makers. They fear that they will not have sufficient funds or the necessary personnel to quickly complete the modernisation measures. But this is one area where Geestland can also show the way: in 2005, the municipality was still in the red when Thorsten Krüger became mayor. The politician recognised the possibilities of the new generation of lighting for his town early on — in a time when only few believed LED to be a sustainable form of technology. 'Many decision-makers are afraid of making mistakes and being held to account for them', says Thorsten Krüger in an attempt to explain the hesitation of his colleagues. 'But investments really pay off here.'
After Geestland narrowly failed to secure a comprehensive LED funding package in the 'Municipalities in a new light' competition held by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Mayor Krüger and lighting planner Augenthaler decide to take matters into their own hands with the help of their enthusiastic local community. They found a direct point of contact at the KfW, who quickly made funding available to the municipality for the modernisation measures, and — unlike the majority of energy suppliers — believed in the ambitious plans of the residents of Geestland.
And they were right: The investments of around three million euros with 90 percent contributed by the municipality themselves will pay off in less than seven years, in part also due to the high annual savings.
Reduced maintenance costs and intelligent control technology
Additional advantages from which all municipalities that decide to perform the upgrade also benefit from — apart from the better quality of lighting — are the reduced maintenance costs. 'With a service life of up to 100,000 hours, we can now expect them to last for 20 years', explains Karsten Lindloff from dena. 'Furthermore, there are also less losses from scattering. Light pollution is reduced, and LED light attracts less insects than conventional fluorescent light, for example.'
Ludwig Augenthaler also identified one additional advantage in Geestland: LEDs can, unlike all other conventional gas discharge lamps, be customised. Their intensity is infinitely variable, and can be reduced e.g. at night, in rural areas, or on rarely-used road sections. The municipality in Lower Saxony, which has received multiple awards, is also planning its own energy park, and is currently introducing dena's energy and climate protection management system, could once again become a pioneer: 'We have already successfully implemented three pilot projects and installed electronic control devices', explains lighting technician Augenthaler with conviction: 'Compared with consumption before the upgrade, we achieve total savings of around 80 percent with the LEDs, including the control devices.'
This could once again make the municipality in Lower Saxony a model to follow for other towns and local communities. The planned new version of the dena Roadshow not only helps decision-makers get better acquainted with such best practice examples from close up, but also allows them to speak directly with providers of lighting and lighting control systems.