Penguin-friendly solar lighting

Popular harbourside walking and bike route in New Zealand to have animal-friendly smart motion lighting poles. 

How often must a local authority consider the needs of penguins when making decisions about infrastructure? That’s exactly what Wellington City Council in New Zealand is doing – and with some carefully chosen tech.  

Kororā at Wellington Zoo

Thirteen solar lights with charging panels integrated into the lighting poles will now light a 430m stretch of the award-winning harbourside walking and cycling paths at Tahitai.  

Of course, good lighting is needed to illuminate the paths and keep people safe. But the new lights will glow dim orange when no one is about. They will brighten when movement is detected as people walk, run or cycle nearby. 

Even then, the amber LEDs produce light with a narrow long wavelength that, compared to conventional street lighting, is less likely disturb local, little blue korora penguins. Light will also be directed towards the paths and away from the rock seawall where the penguins like to nest. 

The sea wall was built to help protect the road and paths but nooks and crannies between the rocks have proved popular with penguins. In fact, the new lights will better suit a range of nocturnal animals and insects. 

Smart motion sensors in the lights can be remotely programmed and fine-tuned, ensuring the right balance can be struck between the needs of humans and the natural world. The result is a nimble solution that reduces light pollution and environmental impact.

The new lights also meet the specific needs of the location. For one thing, traditional lighting would require extensive new trenching under the existing road for cabling etc. The new lights power themselves, with solar panels wrapped around the lighting columns. This protects them from the elements but also means they receive light evenly during daylight hours, all through the year. 

The lights have been manufactured by Ligman and cost some NZ$326,000 (about £164,000) including installation. Similar lights have previously been installed at Pukehuia Park in Newlands and Alex Moore Park in Johnsonville. 

Brent Tandy, Senior Ranger Biodiversity at the Department of Conservation, says: ‘It’s about finding ways to balance the needs of wildlife with those of people and making shared routes like this accessible for humans and penguins alike.’ 

In related news, newly installed solar tech will save a North East Derbyshire sports centre thousands of pounds a year.

Photo of korora penguin at Wellington Zoo by Skylar Primm


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top