Public complaints about light “spillage” into homes from new LED streetlights were discussed at Wednesday’s budget meeting.
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes said some Red Deerians complain streetlights outside their homes are so bright they can read books in their living rooms and wonder if there are dimming capabilities.
Utilities manager Jim Jorgensen said his department has fitted all of the city’s 11,000 streetlights with LED lights in recent years. While the goal was to maintain the same level of lighting, he admitted the new LED lights are blue-er and produce “a different quality of light” than the more yellow-toned incandescent lights they replaced.
The city’s Electric Light and Power department has been working with residents at “trouble sites,” near major roadways. Streetlights have in these cases been redirected away from homes as much as possible. “We are always looking for solutions… The door is open to any upgrades or modifications,” said Jorgensen.
Various municipalities have taken different approaches to street lighting, with some enacting dark skies policies. In Hawaii, for example, artificial lighting is kept lower so as not to interfere with the life cycle of endangered sea turtles, nor obstruct telescopic views of the night sky.
As for dimming LED Red Deer’s streetlights, Jorgensen suggested this could defeat their primary purpose— to create safe streets for pedestrians and motorists. “We do follow North American standards,” he told council.
Up to 30 complaints are received by his department annually about too bright streetlights, but about the same number come in from people who want brighter lighting around their homes or yards, said Jorgensen.
As his department has always prioritized keeping streets well lit, he added a new direction would have to come from council on whether to change a decades-old practice.
Wyntjes suggested council review this at an appropriate time.
Coun. Veer agreed with Jorgensen that it’s a “balancing act” to sufficiently light up streets and sidewalks without disturbing residents with light pollution.
On Wednesday, council supported spending $460,000 in 2021 to upgrade cables, poles and controls.