A sprawling expanse of illuminated city blocks is beautiful to behold. It’s also incredibly wasteful. Dutch mechanical engineer Chintan Shah discovered that keeping the lights on at night in Europe cost the continent more than 10 billion Euros each year and accounted for more than 40% of the government’s energy use. It also created 40 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, giving a whole new meaning to the term “light pollution.”
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Shah’s company, Tvilight, created a motion sensor for streetlights that dims the light when people aren’t around and restores it to full brightness when triggered by human (or animal) movement. Shah’s sensors can also be adjusted to their location. For uncommonly used places like empty parking lots, the streetlights can be dimmed up to 70% when they’re not needed. For well-trafficked roadways and neighborhood streets, streetlamps may be dimmed only 30% to 40%, in order to keep areas secure. Tvilight’s sensors have already been installed throughout entire municipalities in Ireland and Holland, saving those countries up to 60% on energy costs. Now, Shah and his group are in talks with officials in Germany, Canada and in the U.S. — in Los Angeles. In other words, Shah’s bright idea is taking off.