Kingborough, Tasmania, successfully adopts solar-powered lighting solution

When the time came to improve access to one of the municipality’s biggest parklands, Kingborough Council took the opportunity to install the most sustainable and environmentally sensitive lighting solution available.

Situated just over 10 kilometres south of Hobart, Kingborough municipality is home to Dru Point in the suburb of Margate, which hosts parklands, an esplanade, boat ramp and now 12 new poles and luminaires. Improving access to the site for pedestrians and larger boats had been on the council’s agenda for some time.

The small but revolutionary lighting scheme comprises a series of poles and luminaires that have completely removed the council’s reliance on grid electricity. The scheme brings together solar technology from the United States and German expertise the lighting components.

The council’s project manager at Kingston Park, Steve Loxley explained: “We needed to acquire some land to allow the road to be moved inland and widened…and raised about half a metre to avoid inundation from future sea-level rise.”

“We removed the low power cables that ran along the esplanade and put some low voltage cables underground,” said Mr Loxley, adding that this allowed the council to install new luminaires without the cable network.
“This is a new technology never used in Tasmania before,” he said. “The solar panels on the poles generate enough electricity to run the lights for five days without any sunlight.”

The VFL530 luminaires draw only 9 watts of power and are specifically designed to comply with recommended standards laid down by the International Dark Sky Association, a non-profit organisation that aims to preserve the night-time environment through quality outdoor lighting.

This provides an advantage over traditional street luminaires that send a proportion of their light upwards, not only causing light pollution but also meaning that the council pays for lighting energy that never reaches where it needs to be.

According to Mr. Stuart Hamilton, from Southern Lighting & Distribution: “We were trying to balance the requirements of conforming to the Australian Standards while delivering an environmentally sensitive solution at the same time”.

“We wanted to limit light spill to the water so as not to disturb the habitat of the wildlife as well as eliminate upward light and glare, so the beauty of the area was not disturbed,” he explained. Delivering pedestrian-code path and roadway lighting with a solar package that assured five days autonomy in Tasmania, at 42 degrees south, was challenging, Mr Hamilton said.

“The major influencing factor was energy, and only the quality of the WE-EF luminaires with precise lens technology could deliver a package under 10 W. Even with the 50-metre spacings, the uniformity of light along the pathway is incredibly good, enhancing the feeling of safety,” Mr Hamilton noted. “The warm 3000 K colour temperature provides a more ambient and human feel that encourages human use, unlike cooler coloured lights which have become more prevalent with the advent of LED street lighting.”

The poles feature Vertaic solar technology that is built into the face of the pole itself, eliminating the traditionally large and unsightly panels that are usually fixed to the top of poles. Aside from a strong desire to deploy the most sustainable lighting scheme as well as utilise new technology, the council also chose products that demonstrated high performance in harsh and corrosive environments.

Mr Loxley said this small-scale project has enabled the council to assess the benefits of the new technology and demonstrate these to rate-payers over the life of the installation. Without even considering the massive reduction in maintenance costs, the installation has a payback period of eight years, which may be improved if the batteries last longer than anticipated. The ongoing savings are obvious – a conventional street luminaire and pole cost around A$1,300 for power supply and maintenance. The new installation, with a warranty of 10 years, and no costs of power supply, will incur only a minimal cost for maintenance.

“We’re currently in the process of taking back responsibility from the power company for street lighting in the area,” explained Mr Loxley, adding that results from the installation at Dru Point would enable the council to decide on how it manages these assets and what technologies could be used to upgrade them.

The only way to fully appreciate the superior quality of light and aesthetic appeal of this technology is to pay a visit to the esplanade at Dru Point at night. Not only has it transformed visitors’ experience of the area, it will deliver massive cost savings and continue to provide reliable lighting with zero carbon emissions for the course of its lifetime.

Images courtesy of Michael O’Keefe Photography and VALEN LIGHT

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