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Dutch town installs world’s first bat-friendly LED street lights

New street lights are energy efficient, individually controllable, and do not interfere with bats' internal navigation

Signify –formerly Philips Lighting – has completed its first bat-friendly lighting installation in a town. Rare bats in the Dutch town of Zuidhoek-Nieuwkoop can now go about their nightly business undisturbed, thanks to new connected LED street lights specially designed to produce light that does not affect their natural senses and rhythms – but still provides enough illumination for residents. The street lights are also highly energy efficient. 

Zuidhoek-Nieuwkoop is home to many rare and vulnerable animal and plant specs. The town and its surrounding area is part of the Natura 2000, a network of nature protection areas across Europe comprising breeding and nesting sites for rare and threatened species. In 2011, Nieuwkoop embarked upon an initiative to build 89 new houses that meet the highest sustainability standards. The innovative street lighting was a response to research into the flora and fauna that revealed the site to be an important feeding ground for some rare bat species.

“Nieuwkoop is the first town in the world to use smart LED street lights that are designed to be friendly to bats,” said Guus Elkhuizen, city council member at Nieuwkoop municipality.. When developing our unique housing programme, our goal was to make the project as sustainable as possible, while preserving our local bat species with minimal impact to their habitat. We’ve managed to do this and kept our carbon footprint and energy consumption to a minimum.“ 

The light ‘recipe’ was developed following extensive research by Signify, the University of Wageningen and NGOs active in this field of conservation. The lights emit a red colour with a wavelength that doesn’t interfere with a bat’s internal compass. Normal street lighting can affect a bat’s flight and overall night time behaviour as well as its insect prey, which tend to congregate around the lights.

The municipality has installed Signify’s Interact City connected LED lighting systems and management software, which enables close to real-time remote management of LED light points that together provide energy savings of up to 70% compared to conventional high-pressure sodium street lighting. Each light point can be controlled remotely, enabling the authorities to respond to a request from a resident to turn up or lower the brightness of the lighting outside their home, and be able to quickly raise the light levels in the area to aid emergency services. When the streets are empty very late at night, the authorities can dim the lights and cut unnecessary energy use.