Zuidhoek-Nieuwkoop, a small town in the Netherlands, has become the first in the world to install street lights that are friendly to bats. The connected light emitting diode (LED) street lights are designed to emit a light that doesn’t interfere with the natural sense or rhythms of bats, using a special light recipe that is perceived by bats as darkness.
The new street lights provide enough illumination for residents, making the roads and pavements safer, while also being highly energy efficient. The town is home to many rare and vulnerable animal and plant species, and the surrounding area is part of Natura 2000, a network of nature protection areas across Europe comprising breeding and nesting sites for rare and threatened species.
Guus Elkhuizen, City Council Member at Nieuwkoop municipality, said, “Nieuwkoop is the first town in the world to use smart LED street lights that are designed to be friendly to bats. When developing our unique housing program, 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 special light recipe used by the street lights was developed by Signify, formerly known as Philips Lighting, the University of Wageningen, and NGOs active in the field of conservation. The LEDs emit a red color and use a wavelength that doesn’t interfere with a bat’s internal compass. Normal street lighting can affect a bat’s flight and overall nighttime behavior, as well as their insect prey, which tend to congregate around the lights.
Zuidhoek-Nieuwkoop is using Signify’s Interact City connected LED lighting systems and software that enables close to real-time, remote management of LED lights, saving up to 70 percent in energy compared to traditional high-pressure sodium (HPS) street lighting. The connected system allows municipalities to adjust the brightness of the lighting outside homes and quickly raise the light levels in the area to aid emergency services. When the streets are empty late at night, authorities can dim the lights to cut unnecessary usage.
The installation of these bat-friendly street lights in Zuidhoek-Nieuwkoop is a significant step towards promoting biodiversity and sustainability in cities. It demonstrates that it’s possible to improve the safety and comfort of residents while preserving local ecosystems and reducing energy consumption. Hopefully, more cities around the world will follow Zuidhoek-Nieuwkoop’s example and embrace sustainable solutions that benefit both humans and wildlife.