The population density in all major cities has risen and the major reason behind this is the attractive job opportunities offered by our cities. Cities are infamously well known for their traffic congestion, poor waste management and overpopulation and if not planned intelligently, the health and wellbeing of communities can be threatened. To create safe and clean public spaces, sustainable urban planning is absolutely necessary and is a need of the hour due to the pressure on civic resources and the awareness of long-term effects of global warming. Digital information age has reached its pinnacle and our homes and work spaces are equipped with smart technology but somehow, our cities do not seem to be taking complete advantage of technological advances accessible today. Most cities are yet to even consider platforms like Internet of Things (IoT) which could help in sustainable urban planning by collecting and recording data to help them become smart, environment friendly and energy efficient.

Conventional Street Lights

According to studies, almost 300 million street lights all over the world are powered by directly energy sources, using outdated technology and contributing to global warming. They tend to consume more energy, which in turn demand massive production of fossil fuel energy, which is a non-renewable energy source. Solar powered LED lights can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 50% and are powered by renewable energy. Traditional street lighting and other outdoor applications may take up to 20% to 40% of a citys energy budget and create up to 6% carbon dioxide emission. Solar lighting system can reduce both these figures and help cities make a contribution towards cleaner environment. The energy used here to power the solar lights is absolutely free!!! The solar energy industry is growing rapidly and experiments and studies are being conducted to boost solar efficiency; therefore, more and more street lighting applications will be offered to our cities and municipalities in the coming days to make the smart choice of implementing solar street lights.

City park illuminated by conventional lights

With the cities busy nature, people get out of their homes and work spaces in the evening to take a walk in the parks, go to restaurants or just hang out with friends on the streets. Illuminating the parks and other shared community areas can help in extending usable hours to accommodate the community and addressing safety concerns. It is the authority  duty to provide better service for the people they serve. A smart energy management enables the street lighting system to be functional even when there is an outage in the citys electric grid. This helps in reducing crime rates and safe commutation of the citizens is made possible. Compared to the traditional lighting methods, the solar LED lights are much more efficient and require less power. With the rate of migration from rural to urban areas increasing across the world, the principal aim of our administrators should be appropriate use of available sources and infrastructure to keep up with the change and provide an exceptional living experience for the citizens. Tropical countries like India have the luxury of year-round sunlight in abundance. Even the winter months cannot affect the performance of solar lights in such countries. India is known to have around 300 sunny days and our country is the worlds fourth largest carbon emitter and also its per-capita energy consumption is close to one-third of the world average. In recent years, with the country aggressively promoting renewable energy, India has already become the second largest solar power market in the world (in terms of installations). Government of India offers flexible subsidy and financing options for individuals to power their homes with rooftop solar installations.

  • Clean renewable energy: It is both the authorities as well as the citizens duty to work together towards green energy goals. The civic sources may motivate solar light systems for businesses as well as private users. They can encourage the citizens to install solar powered energy solutions by working closely with them and providing practical examples by illuminating the public spaces with solar energy.
  • Electricity Cost:Budgetary restrictions can prevent the cities from implementing outdoor lighting systems. Solar LED lights are powered by renewable solar energy, which is absolutely free and available in abundance. Apart from the initial investment, there are almost no installation and maintenance charges. The money saved from solar light installations can be useful to enable funds for other applications for the development of the city.
  • Environment impact:No natural resources are depleted since the energy used in solar powered system is the sun energy. The solar lights emit less carbon dioxide than traditional lights. Since the solar powered lighting does not need electric grid or cables, the installation and maintenance charges are a lot lesser.
  • Simplified urban planning and city management:The goal behind creating a smart city is to manage a city more effectively, saving energy and human resources. Remote management technology linked with solar street lighting system helps the authorities to determine when a light goes out of order instead of waiting for the public to report them. The settings of the solar light system also can be adjusted remotely with the smart cloud software.
  • Multiple uses for solar street light poles:Charging spots for mobile phones, buttons for emergency services, Wi-Fi network, digital displays, etc. can be attached to the street light poles. Keeping the pole as a foundation, the officials can offer an integrated platform of services to the communities.

The technology used in smart solar street lights helps them to increase their efficiency and performance. With the motion sensors and dimming features, the solar street lights are equipped to send and receive data through wireless communication. According to the areas needs, the luminosity of the lights can be adjusted. This helps to decrease pollution and gives more control of solar energy generation. This is a real-time technology and the usage of these solar street lights can be monitored remotely 24/7. Through the help of the IoT platform, solar street lights can be brought into service to incorporate various environmental sensors. These sensors come with excellent features like detecting various pollutants, recording the temperature and also monitoring the level of traffic. Effective data collection is made possible with this modern technology, which can be further used for researches to improve urban design planning and to reduce the cost and pollution based on the data collected. Such analysis can provide information on, for example, traffic frequency and thereby, making a well-organized transport system, avoiding traffic congestions and/or accidents. This data can also be used to intimate passengers regarding available parking options and payment options for the parking. Temperature recordings also could be used for vital research to provide insight to climate change and detection of pollution. This may help the city council to pay attention to the areas that are more affected. Effective data application can help in the field of law enforcement. The statistics acquired can help the scientists to understand the impact of energy consumption and how it affects the cities and people, which may allow them to do further research to create more sustainable ideas for future city planning. Responsible cities attract responsible citizens. When not imposed but making it as part of your daily life, the civic forces can indirectly help the citizens realize their commitment towards the world they are living in.

Data-driven decision making contributes to endless possibilities and with the technology being reinvented on a day to day basis, the massive amount of information collected can be used for designing our cities to be self reliant and thereby, empowering the citizens to be self sufficient. Meeting individual and collective needs can help the authorities to create a closer relationship with the individuals. A city that has so much to promise in its way of functioning definitely captivates the attention of worldwide economy. Teaming up with private sector companies empowers the local government to create global competitiveness to attract more businesses into the city and thereby raising more revenue to run the city effectively. Solar street lights are a perfect fit for our city landscape. Clean and sustainable energy sources are our tomorrow. Substituting traditional street lights with smart solar street lights is indeed a big step but can be made possible with a vision, in-depth planning and execution. A lot of people come into our cities dreaming to make it big and for many, success does not come easy. The best that the city managers can do is to make the lives of its people comfortable and easy during their good and bad times. One must remember that it is only by safeguarding our environment and using our resources wisely, we can continue to preserve the beauty and dynamics of our cities. Let us make our cities greener, smarter and future ready for the next generation!