Beautiful Cityscape, Huge Waste of Energy

mattgould's picture

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has found themselves revelling in the beautiful nighttime cityscapes of America's cities. But at what cost? Why are so many rooms lit all night, other than maintenance crews cleaning? And all we see are the exterior rooms, think of all the interior rooms within the buildings that have lights on all day, and all night--and the computers, AC/heating operating unchecked. Is there a solution to this, as aesthetically pleasing as it is?

nblackburn's picture

Maybe to light only the rooms

Maybe to light only the rooms with windows?


Zaquex's picture

Better yet...

What about turning off the light when not in use? I am sure people will find stars just as beautiful during the nighttime. People can enjoy the scenery during the day.

mattgould's picture

that's my point though, most

that's my point though, most lights stay on all throughout the night... just a thought

gcotter's picture

Some ideas on avoiding waste

OK, I admit it, Energy Consumption is one of my hot buttons.  I turn out the light when I leave a room, I use low energy bulbs to reduce energy use, and I have solar panels, so I am all for reducing energy waste.  

Cost is always a way to motivate changes in behavior.  Alas, we actually have reverse incentives in place because utility rates are lower during off peak hours.  This is to encourage people to use energy at night instead of day to avoid brownouts.  And I benefit from it because during the day when the rates are high my solar panels are generating power at the higher rate and at night I consume power at the lower rate.

How can we take that philosophy and make it apply to your concern about wasted energy at night?  Well, for a start, maybe we could work with PG&E to change the hours that are "peak" and "off peak".  

Maybe there could be three tiers instead of two?  Maybe "off-peak," "peak," and "Outrageously expensive?"  Maybe PG&E rates should skyrocket between say 2:00 am and 6:00 am?   Believe me, businesses would not want to pay exorbitant rates  for four hours so the cost would drive them to do make darn sure the lights got turned off.

What about having the Planning Department or Building Department (or whatever is the correct department) require that office buildings be equipped with timers for lights?  When I worked downtown our lights had settings that lowered the lights at 6:00 pm and again at 10:00 pm and again later - sort of like a snooze alarm.  There were electric panels where you could get the lights back on when you had to work late but each section had its own switch so you could turn on the lights in your work area while leaving the rest of the floor dark, and every few hours the lights go out again so if someone forgot the lights would still get turned out.  If all buildings had energy management like this it would go a long way to reducing electricity usage/waste at night.

So, if you require new buildings to have lights on timers, and PG&E can set motivational rates, then I think we could reduce energy waste at night.

However, I do think that some lighting at night is needed for safety.  Would you want to walk down a dark street going back to your car or Bart or waiting for Muni after going out to dinner or the theater?  Sure there are street lamps, but when those are the only lights it can feel really creepy.  I would much prefer to have store fronts and ground floors of businesses lighted at night so I feel safe and so that the stores and businesses are less likely to get burgled.

And, I gotta admit that I think the Bay Bridge lights are beautiful and I have no problem with some exterior lighting on some of our beautiful buildings.  The cityscape is beautiful and we want and need tourists who also appreciate the beauty of our city both during the day and at night.  I agree with you that maybe we could find ways to motivate big building owners to reduce their interior light usage at night but I think we still need some exterior lighting for both safety and aesthetics.

mattgould's picture

Many good points

You raise many good points here gcotter. I'd like to look more into a three-tier system, love the term "motivational rates."

I'm thinking a good solution to the larger issue would be to somehow ensure that large buildings are turning off their interior/core lights when nobody needs them.

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