Pilot project on ECR stretch radiates success and may cover whole of Puducherry

The night drive along the ECR is almost entirely guided by the light from the headlamps of vehicles, until one hits the home run somewhere near the Pondicherry University.

From a distance, travellers setting their first sights on the brightness emanating about a mile ahead are likely to confuse it for some carnival on the outskirts of town; the psychics might even tend to see the halo of incandescence in the distance as some form of initiation into a city enriched by the spiritual legacy of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

From a particular point in Pillaichavadi on the ECR, the darkness of the night surrenders abruptly to a suffusion of bright light bearing down on the road from rows of overhead LED lamps. The LED-powered illumination continues for about four more km.

“So clear is the visibility that you can drive with your headlights switched off,” an official at the Chief Secretariat had proclaimed.

A test-drive the other night on the ECR proved that there was hardly any hyperbole in that statement.

The 4.2-km stretch between Pillaichavadi and Kanagachettikulam has been lit up with about 270 pairs of LED lamps arranged in rows overhead of the median as part of a pilot project managed jointly by the Renewable Energy Agency Pondicherry (REAP) and the Puducherry Electricity Department (PED).

The project sought to establish the scalability of the pilot scheme as well as to secure tangible evidence of the benefits of LED lamps such as longer shelf-life, lower maintenance, improved lighting and energy savings.

The small glitch, however, in providing contiguous LED lighting all the way from Pillaichavadi right up to the city, is the presence of one stretch of the ECR that falls in Tamil Nadu territory.

“We’ve completed the pilot and a report will soon be presented to the Local Administration Department which is the custodian of street properties,” said K. Mathivanan, PED Superintending Engineer. Though it was initiated on an allocation of Rs. 50 lakh, the project involved an expenditure of about Rs. 1.25 crore.

“We wanted the PED to set up separate electric poles, dedicated transformers and feeder lines to power the LED lamps which have electronic circuitry that is vulnerable to damage from spikes in voltage,” said Pankaj Kumar Jha, Election Department official who had overseen the pilot when he was managing director of REAP.

Energy experts point out that any capital expenditure on LED installations would have better returns on investment as the average lifespan of LED bulbs is about seven years as against the three-year shelf-life of conventional sodium vapour or CFLs.

Also, the Lumens Per Watt (LPW) — or the amount of light produced for each watt of electricity consumed — of LEDs is superior to legacy lighting equipment.

However, the energy savings of LED lights present their biggest benefit.

The Lumens Per Watt (LPW) of LEDs, or the amount of light produced for each watt of electricity consumed, is superior to legacy lighting equipment. For instance, while an ordinary tubelight consumes 100 watt electricity, an LED consumes only 45 watt and emits brighter light in the bargain.

In a few weeks, officials propose to make a power-point presentation on the project to Chief Minister N. Rangasamy who has in mind a bigger plan to bring the entire city under LED lighting.

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