LED street lighting upgrade scheme

Led street lighting upgrade before and after image x2
Before and after the LED lantern upgrade and adaptive dimming at Rivenhall Road, Westlea, Swindon (looking east)

We have invested heavily to convert approximately 25,000 of our street lights to LED lanterns. We also undertook some essential column replacements.

The upgrade project delivered a substantial reduction in the amount of energy purchased and utilised by the council, a 61% improvement, while also providing better lighting services for residents.

We have listed some questions and answers about the project below. Regular updates will be given on our social media channels and via our Highways News newsletter.

In 2018-19, street lighting accounted for 3,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, which is more than half of our electricity-related emissions. Changing the lights will make a significant saving to those emissions.

Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting is energy efficient and has reduced in price considerably in recent years. Prior to this upgrade, 18% of our street lighting was LED lighting, with the majority being the older low-pressure sodium (SOX) or high-pressure sodium (SON) units. The SOX units are obsolete, out of production and are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.

LED lights use considerably less energy than the older SOX and SON units. A major advantage is that LED lights provide the opportunity to dim the lighting during off-peak periods to further reduce energy consumption.

The programme started in July 2020 and was completed at the end of 2022.

Enerveo (formerly SSE Street Lighting Contracting) carried out this work, which included a Central Management System (CMS) called PLANet. The CMS provides remote control, monitoring and energy management of street lighting over a wireless interface. The benefit is that it reduces maintenance costs. For example, night scouting will no longer be needed as the system will automatically report any faults. It also has the capability to reduce the light output in certain areas if and when required.

Many of the existing lights reached the end of their life with many components becoming obsolete. There are also massive energy savings with the new LED lanterns, as well as savings on carbon footprint.

The overall cost of the project was £9.7m which included replacing any necessary lamps columns and it is expected that the cost of replacing the LED units will have a pay back of five years, but this could be substantially sooner depending on future energy costs.

Energy costs have been rising enormously in recent years and, with the other services the council has to provide, the cost of energy for the street lighting is becoming increasingly unaffordable. The savings in energy costs will help pay for the new lighting, and the project will significantly reduce the Council’s carbon footprint.

No, savings from initiatives such as these are needed to maintain frontline services and continue to successfully deliver the Council’s priorities.

It is anticipated that the new units will last 20 to 25 years. The older lamps currently in use usually have to be changed every 3 to 6 years.

As lighting was not being removed or turned off it was not considered necessary to hold public consultation regarding these proposals.

Residents have a responsibility to keep trees, hedges or shrubs maintained and trimmed back so that it does not infringe into the footway and affect access to street lights.  Swindon Borough Council, or their agents, have Powers under the Highways Act 1980 to undertake that work necessary to access apparatus. The Council are also able to recharge residents for all works taken to cut back and remove offending vegetation. Residents are reminded that after cutting, most types of trees, hedges or shrubs make new growth, which can cause an obstruction at a future date. It would therefore be appreciated if pruning is periodically carried out to ensure that problems do not recur.

LED’s produce a whiter light than given off by old traditional lighting, known as high and low pressure sodium, which appear orange in colour. Colours become much more identifiable and objects clearer. Different colour temperatures are available; Swindon chose a warm white of 3000k which is the lowest widely available and commercially viable colour temperature unit at the time the contract was let, and is the benchmark for good LED lighting.

All areas lit with new LED lights comply with the minimum standards of the relevant British Standards. The light levels are minimised wherever possible. Lighting for each street is a bespoke design for that street and the light dimmed to provide just the right amount of light in the right place.

Some of the old street lights used sodium which produces a light that appears orange in colour. LED lights produce a white light which makes it is easier to recognise colours, improving visibility for road users and pedestrians. Low pressure sodium lights were not energy efficient and consequently are going out of production. With the ending of the manufacture of the older orange lights and the safety advantages offered by white LED lights, it was neither possible nor beneficial to make like for like replacements with regard to colour of the light.

The purpose of street lighting is to ensure the Public Highway is lit to the appropriate standards. The lighting of private property is the responsibility of the homeowner or tenant.

The light produced from an LED lantern is far more directional than existing street lanterns.  We can control where it falls, directing it onto footways and carriageways where it is most needed, therefore, reducing light pollution into properties.

The existing lanterns were replaced on a like for like basis and we did not change or move any existing columns unless they were deemed to be unsafe.

In most cases it was just the lantern that was upgraded, and this took around 15 minutes. Other works took longer.

In most cases the conversion will be a quick operation done during the day. However, where columns have to be replaced some lights may be out of operation for a short period. Care will be taken to avoid creating large dark areas during implementation.

We took guidance from Public Health England, British and European Standards and obtrusive light guidance from the Institution of Lighting Professionals. We are satisfied that at the low lighting levels we are lighting our streets to provide negligible risks to residents. We mostly use Urbis Axia 3 lights manufactured by Urbis Schréder LED units with what is known as a colour temperature of 3000k, which are often referred to as warm white. These are the lowest widely available and commercially viable colour temperature units at the time the contract was let and is the benchmark for good LED lighting. Some other LED lights are available which have a higher colour temperature of 4000k and which are slightly more efficient. Some campaigners have had concerns about the wide use of these in other authorities however we can confirm that they are not going to be installed in Swindon as part of this work. More bespoke lanterns will be used in areas such as the town centre or conservation areas where lanterns can be replaced with the same or similar styles.

As LEDs produce a natural white light, this enables the human eye to see in colour and with improved peripheral vision. This should make your road look safer and help reduce crime and the fear of crime.

Some lighting columns control other columns, these are known as 'switch points'. Due to the complexity and high cost of upgrading these, a decision was made to remove these from the LED upgrade project. These will be upgraded separately, in the future, as part of other works (c200 units across the Borough). Until then, the switch points have been turned on to permanent supply so there may, unfortunately, be a number of lights 'day burning' until such time as these units are upgraded.

The upgraded street lights are controlled wirelessly by a base station, so information can be passed back and forth. These base stations, of which there are 13, are spread across the whole of the borough. Each of them is equipped with a light meter which controls the timings when the street lights come on and off, depending on the environmental conditions. Each light on a street will seek out the strongest signal being transmitted within its range. Depending on the light levels at the base station each individual upgraded street light is connected to, this will affect when the street lights are turned on or off. This means individual lights can vary, even on a single street.

They are designed to have a long life span of around 20 to 25 years of near maintenance-free service. Unlike with conventional street lighting units, there is not the need for frequent lamp changes, which means there is reduced waste and unit attendance. This means:

  • reduced annual energy consumption required to keep street lights illuminated
  • reduced disposal of old lamps containing harmful mercury or other materials
  • reduced fuel used and the accompanying pollution to service lights
  • reduced potential for disruption on the highway network through lane closures or road works to maintain the lights
  • less natural resources and energy used to produce replacement lamps for maintenance
  • less fuel used to transport the lamps from the factory (most likely overseas), to the distributor, to the contractor, to the job site

If the light is problematic, you can report it via the Report a faulty streetlight or illuminated sign webpage.

Over 25,000 lanterns across the borough. There are a number of lighting columns across the borough that we were not able to upgrade due to various issues such as:

  • restricted access
  • overgrown vegetation
  • supply faults
  • other council highway projects involving street lighting replacements
  • the borough having not yet adopted the street light from a property developer
  • the lighting column being a control point (also known as a switch position)

To clarify this final point, switch positions control other nearby lighting columns. Due to the complexity and high cost of upgrading these switch positions, we decided to remove them from the scope of the LED Upgrade project. These switch positions require extensive re-cabling by the electricity company and this work was not covered by the grant we received to upgrade the lanterns to LED. The grant restricted spend to street lighting components, which meant additional complexities requiring third party intervention were not included.

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