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Digital deep-dive: Devon’s Smart Streetlighting Vision

5 min

Lynmouth, Devon. c. Ed Webster, Flickr

The latest investment in smart streetlighting for Devon County Council will be key as the authority looks to meet its sustainability goals and make its way as a smart city. Quadrant Smart sits down with operations and communications manager Chris Cranston and project lead Darren Kelly to find out about the contract, and the potential for future residents

The rollout of intelligent streetlighting for Devon County Council is the latest in the authority’s bid to decarbonise its infrastructure and create smart solutions for its residents, the council tells Quadrant Smart.

The south coast council’s 10-year contract with SSE Contracting (SSEC) will convert the remainder of the council’s 79,000 streetlights to LED, reducing carbon emissions overall by 75%. The contract will also bring in Telensa to improve the county council’s Central Management System (CMS) to more flexibly monitor and manage the council’s streetlight system – with the potential to expand the CMS to areas including air quality monitoring and traffic management.

Picture Shows; Left to right, Councillor, Stuart Hughes, Cabinet Member for Highways Management, Devon County Council, Chris Cranston, Operations and Communications Manager, Devon County Council, and Andy O’Connor, Director of Lighting Services at SSE Lighting Services, Exeter, Thursday 15 October 2020. c. Stuart Nicol Photography, 2020

Since 2015 the council has already converted 34,000 streetlights to low energy LED replacements. The latest contract with SSEC, a major streetlighting contractor in the UK and employer in the region, will look to continue the rollout to the remaining streetlights over a three year period, following an £8.5m commitment from the council for the project.

“Street lighting is the biggest carbon user for the county council,” explained Chris Cranston, communications and operations manager at the authority, and responsible for the council’s streetlighting management. Following Exeter University’s latest report on the impacts of artificial lighting on the environment, Chris tells Quadrant that the LED lights, set at 3000 Kelvin, will be less invasive to the environment.

The 10-year contract, which Chris noted is slightly out of the norm from the council’s usual five-to-seven year contracts, was result of the council putting in “fairly stringent” requirements to ensure value for money with SSEC.

With all of these systems moving into the cloud, it gives us much better accessibility to them

“Whenever any LED is upgraded in this contract, the contractor will be responsible for the maintenance of that item for the remainder of that contract. If any failures occur, they would be responsible for those failures,” explained Chris.

“One of our concerns was that if you’re putting in a big capital investment upfront, how do we avoid contractors coming in, cherry-picking where the big money is, and then trying to ditch the contract as soon as they can later on.

“We’ve tried to be careful in the way we constructed the contract to make sure that wasn’t the case. We wanted people for the long haul, but we also wanted to make sure it was in their interest to put stuff in a quality way, because they would have the liability for it in the longer term.”

Expanding the platform

The onboarding of Telensa’s smart streetlight management software, PLANet, will initially allow the council to wirelessly communicate and manage 11,000 streetlights in the county, allowing the council to better respond to system failures and adjust light levels accordingly.

Chris explained that the council’s previous CMS had become antiquated with communications issues, resulting in the council specifying for a streetlight management system to work in Devon’s 24/7 operations control centre. The system will control streetlights not across the entire county, but “certainly wider than just Exeter,” Chris added.

“As part of that transfer, most of our systems have now gone into the cloud. The Telensa system and the access to that, as well as being accessible by the lighting team, gives us the opportunity for doing more monitoring and identifying,” explained the operations manager.

Exeter city centre c. Nick Rice, Flickr

“With all of these systems moving into the cloud, it gives us much better accessibility to them. In the past, we have had lots of services residing in different locations – it was becoming quite a nightmare to manage. Now they are all in the cloud, which makes it more accessible and easier to manage.

“It’s really getting the infrastructure in place to allow us to move forward in the smart cities areas as well.”

Darren, a senior lighting engineer at Jacobs, though seconded to lead the project for the council, added that Telensa’s TALQ2 certification allows the council to expand its smart management into areas beyond just streetlighting, including gully sensors or smart parking, for example. Darren added that the Telensa system expects to be fully operational within 12 months of the contract awarding on 1 October.

“What we have allowed for as part of the contract – because Telensa are coming in – is a platform we can work on and then expand on. It will then have its own planning systems you can monitor for streetlights, but as part of that, their base plan for Urban IQ allows for all sorts of interconnectivity between the different apps,” he said.

“Whether it’s air quality or traffic management, there is the potential for those to come onto their various cloud systems and actively drag them into the one control system. By having this in place, it gives us the scope to expand as we need.”

The SSEC upgrade to streetlighting will mostly be completed within 18 months of the contract award, Chris said, at around 600 streetlight upgrades a week.

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