The day works, the night lights up

Publish date 06-07-2022

by Carlo Degiacomi

In 2019, in Italian urban streets, especially urban ones, there is a lamp post for every 6 inhabitants: over 10 million. At present it is estimated that they represent about 20/30% of the total consumption of the energy bills of the cities. 12% of national energy consumption is used for urban lighting.

Street lamp public lighting can become a new model that adds new functions to the service of light : the street lamp becomes intelligent because it can be connected to the internet.
It means savings of 60/70% or more compared to traditional street lamps. From an approximate calculation it can be deduced that in municipalities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, the cost of public lighting varies from 20 to 50 euros per inhabitant. In our country, especially since 2016, we proceed with the replacement of street lamps (from metal halide or sodium vapor lamps with LEDs), among other things also of longer duration, of all colors of light and therefore with less maintenance. and replacement, but without having a broader innovative vision.

Then even the street lamp becomes a hub, it becomes smart, it becomes a mesh of the territory's digital network, intelligent when it can be equipped with plugs for recharging batteries for mobility during the day. But above all when it is equipped with sensors, cameras, networked and interconnected devices: to help in case of safety, for wi-fi connections, with video surveillance capabilities, earthquake damage warnings, accident warnings. Traffic safety check. Produce timely alarms in cases of fire and smoke.
Check the waste collection places, check the air quality; measure humidity, noise; report available parking spaces; adjust traffic lights according to traffic; report some excesses of atmospheric events. Thanks also to the conversation between nearby street lamps.

The most interesting examples of intelligent street lamps are from Northern Europe. At the Italian level, Enea has created a platform. A city: Turin. What happened from 2016 onwards on the 100,000 points / street lamps of the city? Iren provides the following data: more than half from 2018 works with LEDs. Perhaps the operation will be completed in two years. From 2020 the lamps in the underpasses and traffic lights will also be replaced, respectively 6,200 and 12,500. Iren has invested 17 million euros in 4 years, achieving energy savings of 5 million euros per year. The cost has paid off in 4 years! Depending on the contracts stipulated in Italy, costs can be covered from 4 to 6 years. But it also helped the environment (8 tons of CO2 less corresponding to about 20 gigawatts less). It is worthwhile to complete the entire replacement. And even the artist's lights have been transformed into LEDs. The municipalities of the Turin belt are working on it with Nichelino in the lead.
But the legitimate and urgent question is: will we stop at the savings obtained as we have described or will we proceed with the extension to other services, transforming a possibility into a reality that can be counted on, not in historical times? The benefits would be extraordinary. A good part of the technologies are part of the environmental solutions.
A Facebook friend has just explained in great detail how his 75-year-old mother takes 5 hours to collect and deliver documents and carry out operations by moving by car when with little effort she could do everything from home and dedicate time for more pleasant and less polluting activities. Will the least trained people ever be able to recover from innovation? Will a little information and training be enough? Or their lack of propensity and their lack of interest, which weighs on politics, will not quickly allow street lamps to become intelligent and cities to be ready for the future?

Carlo Degiacomi
NP March 2022

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