Lighting Up the Night

Living Labs Global is now soliciting applications for its Labs Global Award 2011.  This year, we are working directly with eight international cities (Barcelona, Cape Town, Eindhoven, Lagos, San Francisco, Sant Cugat del Valles, Stockholm, and Taipei) that have specific urban challenges to solve.  These eight challenges form eight award categories: automation of urban services; venture finance for millions of African entrepreneurs; intelligent urban lighting solutions; sustainable initiative on intellectual property protection; creating the next generation of government; smart urban services based on sensor networks; intelligent transport solutions; and smart solutions for 10,000 smart houses in 16 green communities.  Full details on these categories are available here. In light of our focused effort in collecting innovative solutions (deadline for submissions in February 28, 2011), we will be concentrating our blogging effort in the next few weeks along the themes of the Labs Global Award 2011.

The first solution I’d like to highlight is Urban Green Energy’s Sanya, an innovative street lighting system recently deployed in San Francisco.  UGE is a “world leader in small wind energy” and has created a vertical wind turbine with a low enough profile to be deployed in urban environments – it is meant primarily for parking lots and highway medians.  San Francisco’s then-mayor, Gavin Newsom, recently announced their installation in his “civic center sustainability” district, an area of the city surrounding the City Hall.

The Sanya solution is great for local and renewable energy advocates, though some have posited the solution could present challenges to utilities companies who often power, control and maintain communities’ street lights.  But, because Sanya is designed to last about 20 years with minimal maintenance costs and run entirely on wind- and solar- power (capable of storing up to 5 days’ worth of power), they are an attractive solution to cities.  And, as Lora Kolodny argues on Techcrunch, Sanya could actually be a positive thing for utilities as well: they could be connected to the traditional utilities’ grid to help them fulfill regulatory requirements for local and renewable energy sourcing.

The comments on her article reflect the sentiments of some environmentalists who, despite the obvious benefits of Sanya to the environment, dislike the idea of helping utilities companies and of street lighting itself (“light pollution”).  Nonetheless, I think this is an interesting and positive solution whose progress I will continue to follow from afar; too bad I’m not living in San Francisco anymore.

-Terra Curtis