Unveiling the Night Skies in France

Toulouse has begun testing out an interesting new technology that dims street lights to 50% when no one is around. The technology involves body-heat detecting lampposts (cool!) that brighten up when people are around and dim again once they are gone.

As well as cutting energy costs by 50%, the plan has the added benefit of reducing light pollution. Anyone who lives in a city knows how hard it is to see a starlight sky. It's always struck me that one of the faults of contemporary cities is that-- thanks to bad planning and poorly designed technology -- they kidnap us from the beauty our natural surroundings. Badly built streetlights are a prime example:

Lighting up the sky serves no purpose other than blocking out the stars. I don't know about you, but I'd take a sky full of stars over a sickly orange glow any night.

Some excerpts from the Guardian article after the jump.

The lights are going down in Toulouse. Tomorrow early-rising residents of the Allée Camille-Soula in the south-western French city will have set out to work with the morning gloom held at bay by radical new technology which turns on streetlights only when pedestrians pass.

Installed on a 500-metre section of pavement last weekend, the lampposts double the strength of the light they cast when they detect human body heat. Ten seconds later they revert to normal.

"It's a prototype. Nothing like this exists anywhere in the world. We pretty much built the technology ourselves," said Alexandre Marciel, the deputy mayor in charge of works, highways, sanitation and lighting.

The aim is to cut energy consumption by around 50%, first on the busy street which runs between a sports stadium and university halls, then more widely. If it is a success, it will be rolled out across the city of around 450,000 people, France's fourth largest..

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This is a blog for news and views on the future of sustainable cites. A major revamp is in the works. Until then I am keeping this version up as an archive of my past writing.

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You can also find my writing on urban redesign and sustainability in ReNew Canada, The Mark, Sustainable Cities Canada, WorldChanging, and other more specialized academic publications.

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