When you go inside, remember to turn off the lights

The streetlight outside my bedroom window burns all night, even when the moon is bright. While there are definitely foggy dreary nights when I welcome that small beam illumination, it seems an awful waste of energy.

The streetlight outside my bedroom window burns all night, even when the moon is bright. While there are definitely foggy dreary nights when I welcome that small beam illumination, it seems an awful waste of energy. Indeed, according to Echelon, streetlights can use up to 40 percent of a city's operating budget.

Enter smart streetlights, a focus for Echelon, maker of various intelligent controllers and probably more often known for its building management systems. Echelon actually has applied its LonWorks technology to the streetlight issue and is touting a few case studies on this informational page on its Web site.

As you would imagine, the benefits of a "smart" streetlight would be its ability to adjust its power usage according to the ambient conditions including natural light and weather. So, what's appropriate on the darkest night of the year might not be what's appropriate on the summer solstice. Electricity and maintenance are the areas where a city government could save money.

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In the United Kingdom, in the city of Milton Keynes, there are more than 400 lights being tested with another 10,000 installations planned. Oslo, in Norway, is converting about 55,000 streetlights at an anticipated power savings of more than 50 percent. And while there isn't yet an information I can find, Ville de Quebec is the first North American city to test the technology, using about 200 lights in its historic district. I would imagine that historic preservation is, indeed, one of the challenges when you're talking about this.