Councils don’t need to become Scrooges on Christmas lights

Christmas is one of the most exciting times of the year for adults and children alike, with the Christmas Lights switch on usually the clearest sign that the festive period is upon us. Energy reducing initiatives however and the worsening economic climate are causing some Councils to consider becoming 'Scrooges' over their Christmas lighting arrangements, according to Harvard Engineering sales and marketing director, Michael McDonnell.

Christmas lighting displays in town and city centres are an important part of the festive season. They brighten our otherwise dark skies and bring joy and excitement to all generations. The annual ritual is also eagerly anticipated by local businesses as it signals the start of what for many, will be their peak selling season. Imagine then what impact not having any Christmas lights could have on a local community – this is dilemma that many Councils are being confronted with thanks to current pressures.

A climate of economic uncertainty and cut-backs, with many Councils having to find ways of reducing their expenditure, combined with initiatives such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency (CRCEE) scheme, is leading many Councils to look for energy efficient technologies to help them save on lighting costs.

One council in South Wales that has taken a pro-active approach in ensuring that their Christmas festive lighting plans will not be blighted is Merthyr Tydfil. Rather than deciding against putting-up any Christmas lighting or limiting the amount of lighting to a smaller number of roads, the Council has taken a more progressive approach by installing a revolutionary system called LeafNut.

LeafNut is a remote wireless monitoring and control system, which allows the Council to dim festive lights and manage them proactively. Originally designed to be used with urban street lighting, the system, which has already been widely installed – approaching 100 towns and cities across the world – allows Councils to save energy and cut costs by dimming street lights. Initially installed for Christmas 2010 the Council is rolling the out the system in 2011.

LeafNut uses a clever little device called a MagNode, which is a miniature wireless radio control system attached to groups of Christmas lights. The Magnode allows the system’s central server to communicate with each group of lights, ensuring they can be accurately synchronised when the lights need to be switched on and off.

By using LeafNut to manage and control festive lighting a significant number of man hours to install and maintain the lighting can be reduced, as lights and fuses do not need to be manually checked individually. LeafNut also provides Local Authorities with the ability to increase the reliability of Christmas lighting, allowing for greater maintenance accuracy, as operators can identify lighting problems in advance, accurately predicting failures.

As Merthyr Tydfil also uses LeafNut to manage its street lights, both the Council’s street lighting and Christmas lighting can be managed through the same system, again leading to reduced management and maintenance costs.

We first intended for LeafNut to be used solely for street lighting, but the potential for the system to manage and control a variety of outdoor lighting quickly became apparent. The solution can not only help Councils reduce energy costs, CO2 emissions and maintenance costs, but can also help private companies that manage large outdoor lighting systems achieve the same goals as well.


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