Friday, April 17, 2009

The Lights Are On, But Nobody's Home

UPDATE: I wrote this blog a few months ago but lost my train of thought as I so often do. I touched it up after reading a blog post by Argentum Vulgaris about Light Pollution.


Reason #1 why the Earth is in the state it is in. More specifically, human stupidity. While I could go on for days simply listing the reasons, today I will specifically focus on one topic.


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A LOT of business and revenue is generated by wasting electricity. Do you think the electric companies of the world are concerned with how much electricity you waste? Or do you think they would react and be more alarmed about the situation where you waste only a little? If they make a lot of money then so do the governments that helped foot the bill for the development of the infrastructure that they use to deliver that power to you.

That isn't really a solution but an explanation for their lack of motivation to give you a true functional solution. Those who really have the power and pull to make some changes lack that motivation for innovation.

Watch those bullshit informative commercials for saving electricity in your home. They always start with them saying, "What can YOU do." Great way to pass the buck you bastards. The most recent one shows to teens talking about their cell phone chargers. Seriously? Look out the window. Do you see that street lamp blazing all night long with no one around to bask in its glow? Do you see the 24 hour businesses with no one but a lonely teenage employee playing solitaire on the computer or an uneducated security guard watching re-runs of Jerry Springer on television?

Lets focus on that shall we, instead of the cell phone chargers some of which use only 0.005 kWh. Your typical street lamp uses 18 to 400 watts depending on the brightness. Considering that it is those very same street lights that you can actually see from space, then one could safely assume there is a lot of energy being wasted there. I'm sure there are a lot more of them then there are plugged in cell phone chargers in the world.

So how do you solve this problem? Well, one solution could use technology that has been around for decades. Motion detectors. Why have a street light on all night long when there isn't even a car in sight?

Motion detectors aren't perfect you say? Agreed, but the more time and money is invested to mass produce them I bet their efficiency and reliability would increase dramatically.

Still not convinced? Well there are other technologies that could be used. RFID for one. Everyone has a Driver's License or some sort of picture ID. If they start handing them out with RFID technology integrated these lights would come on automatically when a person would approach. Someone loses their keys or wallet where the RFID is implanted, the redundant motion detector fail safe would be there to back it up. A lot of street lamps currently have light detectors to turn them on or off when the sun rises so additional technology added to those devices isn't new.

Expensive? At first perhaps but functional and after time their development costs would greatly decrease as it does for all technology. Besides, I believe the cost of the electricity we would save would greatly outweigh the price of the technology.

So the ball is back in your court big corporations. What can YOU do to save electricity? I am currently sitting in one office building in a group of 10 with 80% of the employees off for the day and ever single light is on, every computer is on and the air conditioning is running full blast even though the temperature outside is fantastic.

If Michael Jackson could have lights turn on for him wherever he walked, why can't we?


Douglas said...

Street lights are mostly low pressure sodium types now. These take some time to reach full illumination. Having them turn off and on can actually be more expensive that constant burning. It's like your car, in a sense. If you are going to idle for more than 3 minutes, it is more economical to turn it off. But shorter times actually use more gas for start up. Similar things for lights, computers, and many electrical devices. I agree it would be nice to have the lights turn off much of the time but you can't have them switching off and on all night. Plus there's the safety and security factor.
The solutions aren't simple and the problems are more complex than they seem.

HektikLyfe said...

I realize that but the reason low pressure bulbs are installed now is because they are designed to conserve as much energy as possible if they were to run all day. So an alternative solution (like mine) would require an instant-on bulb that per hour would perhaps possibly use more electricity, per NIGHT it would not because it would spend more time off than on. LED could be an option.

All these solutions that I propose in my Reorg Earth blogs aren't all encompassing. The solutions also propose new problems that would need their own solutions but they are a restructuring of sorts that would take us down another path to get us out of the dead end where we currently find ourselves. My apologies for the run-on.

The problems I try to focus on are complex as are the solutions which I summarize in a painfully simplistic manner. They are just a basic idea meant to be built upon. A different way of looking at things. Starting over from scratch on a fresh, clean drawing board.

Safety and security is something I had considered. Motion detection would turn these lights on. As would RFID or even heat sensors as the case may be. Point is there are MANY options NONE of which are being implemented.

Dark alleys still exist and criminals that try to bypass the motion sensors do that now anyway. A great capability that could also be implemented into those activating lights is a warning system like a lifeline. On that same RFID an individual could carry a panic button that would flash those same lights to call attention to the area. Police notification, paramedics...that sort of thing.

All technically possible, NOW.

Marcy said...

It's like that whole Earth Hour thing... many cities participated for one hour of one day in one year. Why can't they do this more often?

I lived in the city of Chicago where we had a street lamp on all night right outside our bedroom window. Talk about bright. I wish I had access to the switch.

Douglas said...

The problem with motion sensors is distance. How far away? Too far and they go on unnecessarily, too near and they don't go on soon enough (leaving the person in the dark too long). I brought the safety and security up because, after all, that is their real purpose. I realize that is an illusion, they provide little safety. i am not a big fan of the LPS lights, I don't like the eerie orange-ish glow. Depressing for some reason. I was thinking we could move everyone on the planet into the area between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. I suppose that wouldn't be practical (or welcomed). But it would reduce the consumption of energy. Add in curfews, outlaw night sports events, and you'd save a huge amount of energy. But it would be a dull existence.
I know, I am being a smart ass. I think we are going overboard on this. You might not like my basic solution: Allow it to happen. Remove all pollution controls beyond direct toxins in water and food. The smog will eventually drive people out of cities, force a reduction in the concentration of polluting factories (so would a depression), and bring about a crisis sooner. We do better at adapting during a crisis than we do in preventing them. And all we are doing is delaying the inevitable.

I do like the LED thought, though.