Can Gas Street Lamps Be Made Green? (Video)

efficient gas street lighting photo

Image credit: Transition Malvern

From natural gas 'fracking' to burning tap water, we know all too well that natural gas is not exactly a clean, problem-free fuel. But what are sustainability advocates to do in a town that cherishes its gas street lamps as a nostalgic throwback to a bygone era, not to mention a draw for the tourists? Why, roll their sleeves up and get tinkering, because residents of Malvern, UK reckon they can boost their gas lamps' performance by 84!It's an interesting dilemma for green-minded folks in Malvern in the UK. The town is one of the very few places left that still boasts gas street lamps, which were originally erected in the 1920s. On the one hand, it might be tempting to argue that replacing them with ultra-efficient LED lighting, perhaps powered with solar, would be the way forward. But the folks at Transition Malvern think the existing lamps can be made much more efficient—by as much as 84%.

There are, of course, technical arguments to be had between the relative efficiency of directly burning a fuel for light versus centralized power generation supplying efficient electric lighting. But I think the cultural implications of this story are also worth noting—the people of Malvern clearly love their lamps and consider them a cultural treasure. So finding a way to keep them burning without excessive emissions, or cost to the tax payer, is seen as the best solution of all.

From installing electronic timing units (as opposed to hand-wound clockwork), through swapping out more efficient burners, to applying reflective surfaces—there does seem like there is a lot that can be done to improve these aging lighting devices. Given the fact that biogas is becoming increasingly available to consumers in the UK too, and knowing that a preference for appropriate technology encourages resilience, the most romantic, culturally appropriate solution might just be the greenest one too.

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