The Comox Valley community of Cumberland wants to shine some new lights on its neighbourhoods – just not too brightly.
At a recent council meeting, staff highlighted an opportunity through BC Hydro for the Village of Cumberland to replace streetlights in the community with more up-to-date lighting.
The staff recommendation was to install the 3000-Kelvin LED streetlighting in residential areas, with 4000-Kelvin along busier connector roads and intersections, as other communities have done. Kelvins are units that measure light intensity of colour temperature on a scale from 1,000 to 10,000.
The work would be part of a streetlight replacement program through BC Hydro, which encourages local governments to replace current lighting with LED lights. The utility also wants input from communities about light intensity. It provides electricity to more than 350,000 streetlights in the province, 95,000 of which it owns.
The Village has 189 of its 100W high-pressure sodium lights and 74 of the 150W wooden-pole mounted lights owned by BC Hydro. The ones on wooden poles are leased from BC Hydro, while the ones on metal bases belong to the Village, especially in new subdivisions.
“Hydro is updating these mainly because of PCBs,” the Village manager of operations Rob Crisfield told council at the Sept. 28 meeting. “There’s a bunch of other reasons as well.”
The reasoning behind the conversion to LED includes being in compliance with federal PCB regulations, energy conservation, better lighting quality and more ease for replacing fixtures. While an estimated 20 per cent of current sodium lights contain PCBs, it is not know which ones, so BC Hydro wants them all replaced.
“A few municipalities have already converted their own personal streetlights over,” Crisfield said.
LED lights have changed over the years, he added, as many earlier versions cast a blue hue. While the LED lighting is designed to meet ‘dark-sky’ requirements, only the 3000K ones are considered to be in compliance because of light colour output from the 4000K lights. These use a flat lens as opposed to a domed one, which should help prevent light spill. A Village staff report notes spill can be reduced by adjusting the angle. There are also light shields but BC Hydro does not anticipate they would be needed.
For members of council, the issue with the higher-power lights is the potential effects they may on the natural environment, specifically around insects and bat populations, along with birds and amphibians, and whether the animals might suffer from brighter lighting. Coun. Gwyn Sproule asked about language in the official community plan for ‘dark-sky’ policies to prevent light pollution, while Coun. Vickey Brown cited research that 3,000K should be sufficient for safety even on main traffic corridors.
“Light is going to have a huge impact on the insects and other creatures,” she said.
Along with using the 3000K everywhere, Brown suggested they specifically request yellow, green and amber LED lights instead of blue-white light.
“The blue-white are most harmful to wildlife,” she said. “It looks like broad daylight. I know our residents don’t want any brighter lights in their neighbourhoods.”
Mayor Leslie Baird agreed with the need to control the lighting. “The glare of the lights at night, it is disturbing…. People would like to see the glare go down a lot,” she said.
Council approved a motion for 3000K LED lights for use on both local and arterial routes and to request BC Hydro to provide yellow, green and amber hues.
The light conversion plan is for the Village to report community preferences to BC Hydro with replacement work to start in November. BC Hydro has the aim of completing all the lighting in the province by mid-2023.