Island council could invest £2.2m in energy efficient lights

A cash-strapped Scottish council is investigating replacing thousands of its ageing street lights with energy-efficient LEDs in a scheme which could cost the authority £2.2million.
The Shetland islands Picture: Robin McKelvieThe Shetland islands Picture: Robin McKelvie
The Shetland islands Picture: Robin McKelvie

Shetland Islands Council has 3,900 streetlights, plus external lights at public buildings, leisure centres and piers – of which around 40 per cent are over 25 years old and operate on conventional lights.

The authority is looking into a replacement scheme and, despite the high cost, believe it could pay for itself over the years in energy savings.

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Modern LED lanterns use “at least” 50 per cent less energy than conventional lighting.

The council’s environment and transport committee has sanctioned a detailed report to produce a fully-costed proposal.

It was told that the Scottish Futures Trust estimates the capital cost of replacing lights could be funded by the resulting long-term savings.

Six LED lanterns were installed in one street in the capital of the islands, Lerwick, around five years ago and that they have operated “without fault”.

In the past couple of years a further 125 LEDs have been installed by the council’s roads service when replacing “conventional” lights.

A replacement programme could also help the local authority meet its energy-efficiency target of a 12 per cent reduction in energy consumption by 2020.

A report from roads manager Dave Coupe stated that existing streetlights were in “relatively poor condition” and there has been underinvestment.

Most of the lights were installed 25 or more years ago and are “now showing the level of wear and tear to be expected from long term exposure to Shetland’s climate”.

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Some have been removed for safety reasons but existing maintenance budgets are insufficient to replace them all.

In October 2012 the council agreed a policy of managed reduction, which involves retaining streetlights “at locations where it is most needed”.

Some lighting has been completely removed and in other areas lights are only on for part of the night to save energy.

Preliminary design work costing £50,000 will be undertaken, with the full cost of the project in the region of £2.2 million.

Meanwhile, the committee also discussed the prospect of using hydrogen as a fuel for council buildings, vehicles and ferries.

Renewable technology could be used to produce hydrogen, diversifying Shetland’s energy supply and reducing its dependence on fossil fuels.

The council has backed a plan to develop a hydrogen production facility in Shetland and has received a £25,000 Scottish Government grant, which is being used to fund the Unst Partnership’s analysis of the potential market for hydrogen.

It is estimated that building a demonstration facility will cost around £530,000 and discussions have been held with the PURE Energy Centre about how a system could be designed.

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A bid for external funding is to be submitted by the end of October, with a view to production commencing in late 2016 or early 2017.

If it is successful, the heating system at the SIC’s Gremista depot could be replaced with new hydrogen technology to assess its potential.

The council believes hydrogen could be a “sustainable, self-sufficient option” for Shetland that would both reduce its energy costs and its carbon payments to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The Scottish Government plans to reduce carbon emissions by 42 per cent by 2020.

Annual mandatory reports are to be produced by local authorities to encourage them to ‘raise their game’.