With the nation looking for ways to reduce light pollution, scientists at the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are looking at ways to light up the night without brightening the night sky. One project focuses on gas station canopy lighting.
The recent trend toward increasingly bright lighting for gas station has caused drivers, residents of surrounding areas, and local officials to complain about excessive glare, light pollution, and light trespass.
The LRC is demonstrating how gas stations can provide satisfactory light levels for their customers at night while reducing glare and light trespass. Other lighting objectives in the project include attracting customers, helping customers feel safe, and making the station visible from a distance.
The State of New York is considering a new law designed to cut down on light pollution and light trespass. Light pollution causes
a brightening of the sky (skyglow) and blocks view of the stars, forcing people who want to star gaze to go away from built up areas. Light trespass refers to light that strays into areas in which it is not needed or wanted, such as adjoining properties, or into drivers’ eyes.
The current solution to light pollution being proposed is the use of full cutoff luminaires. But, according to Dr. Peter Boyce,
these may not provide the desired effect. “We simply do not know yet. We want to avoid making a decision without knowing the facts. We could end up with more wasted light and more wasted energy,” said Dr. Boyce, who is conducting the LRC study.
When light reflection off the ground is considered, some full cutoff luminaires actually send more light up into the sky than some semi cutoff fixtures or cutoff fixtures, such as traditional, cobrahead streetlamps. Another consideration is the potential need for more lamps that are placed closer together because of the full cutoff design.
"We take a holistic approach in our research,” said Dr. Michele McColgan, a researcher at the LRC. "We're looking for better ways to light the things we need to see without wasting light. We support efforts to reduce skyglow and make it possible to see the stars. We especially want to reduce light pollution while mitigating wasted energy."
EDITOR’S NOTE, February 2002: Read the DELTA Snapshot report about this project, published after this study was
Click here www.lrc.rpi.edu/programs/DELTA/pdf/DELTAsnpCanopy.pdf.