Developing Japan’s first IDA certified light pollution control LED lighting
In January 2020, Panasonic became the first Japanese manufacturer*1 to develop a light pollution prevention LED street light and crime prevention light that was certified as being “Dark Sky Friendly” by the International Dark‑Sky Association. The IDA is an NPO organization based in the United States that plays a leading role in global initiatives to minimize light pollution, and has over 60 branch offices in 18 countries around the world. The development of light pollution prevention LED lighting equipment started with a request for cooperation from Ibara City, Okayama Prefecture. The Bisei Tourism Association in Ibara is currently preparing to obtain the “International Dark Sky Places certification”*2, which was established by the IDA in 2001, and celebrates outstanding efforts to protect and preserve the dark and beautiful night sky that is unaffected by light pollution. In order to obtain this certification, outdoor lighting equipment that met its criteria was required.
*1: As an IDA certified equipment of a domestic manufacturer (As of February 20, 2020. According to a survey conducted by the International Dark-Sky Association, Tokyo Chapter)
*2: There are six categories in the “International Dark Sky Places® certification”, and the Bisei Tourism Association is aiming to be certified as a “Dark Sky Community”.
Bisei Town, an ideal place for astronomical observations
Okayama is often referred to as “the land of sunshine” because of its high rate of fair weather, but because it is located on a gentle plateau, the air current in Bisei, Ibara is also stable. Also, there are not many artificial lights that brighten the night sky, and it has been known as an ideal place for astronomical observations among astronomy hobbyist from before.
In 1987, the Environment Agency (at the time) implemented the “Nationwide Starwatching Contest” at the municipal level. Based on those observation results, Bisei was selected as a “Star Town”.
Japan’s first light pollution prevention ordinance enacted
In 1989, Bisei enacted Japan’s first light pollution prevention ordinance. The ordinance recommended that all outdoor lights be turned off after 10:00 PM, and to prevent light from escaping above the horizontal plane. In 1993, the Bisei Astronomical Observatory was opened. Astronomy-related events began to be implemented, increasing people’s interest.
Around that time, many white fluorescent lights were installed around the town as crime prevention lights. Later, with the spread of LEDs, they were sequentially replaced with white LED security lights from 2011, but light was leaked upwards from the approximately 400 white fluorescent lights and white LED security lights, resulting in a state where the standards of the ordinance were not met.
Preserving the starry skies that are the pride of the town while protecting its safety at night
Information regarding the IDA’s “International Dark Sky Places® certification program” was brought from the Bisei Astronomical Observatory to Kenji Fujioka of the Ibara Regional Revitalization Division (at the time) in 2016. Mr. Fujioka and others, who believed that “Bisei was suitable as an “International Dark Sky Place®”, visited the IDA Tokyo Chapter that year. Since then, they have continued to promote awareness activities by exchanging opinions with President Nobuaki Ochi and through environmental protection events.
Meanwhile, the Bisei Tourism Association also began to have a sense of crisis about the possibility of losing the “beautiful starlit sky” environment that their predecessors established, and using this as an opportunity, the Bisei Tourism Association decided to aim to obtain the “International Dark Sky Place®” certification in March 2019 with the full cooperation of Ibara. In addition to using the certification as an opportunity to aim to preserve the beautiful starlit skies and natural environment, they also wanted to foster a sense of unity with the local residents by improving the town’s brand value. Furthermore, a ripple effect on the local economy through tourism could also be expected. This marked the start of these challenges.
Okayama Prefecture Ibara Bisei Branch,
Bisei Promotion Division Assistant Director
Ibara, Okayama Prefecture Future Planning Department, Settlement Tourism Division Assistant Director and Chief of Tourism
Ibara, Okayama Prefecture, Future Planning Department,
Settlement Tourism Division Section Chief
Clearing the strict standard to establish the first certified products as a Japanese manufacturer
In March 2019, the Ibara Appeal Dispatch Division (at the time) visited Panasonic to discuss the initiatives of the Bisei Tourism Association. Panasonic agreed with this cause, and decided to offer their cooperation.
In the criteria for the outdoor lighting in “International Dark Sky Places®”, it is required to keep glare at a bare minimum, prevent all upward light leakage that obscures the starlit sky and have a color temperature of 3000K or less, which means a light bulb color with little blue light.
First, Panasonic provided model lighting equipment with bulb color LEDs to replace the existing white security lights in Bisei. We installed a portion of them locally and conducted tests, but Mr. Ochi from the IDA pointed out that there was light leakage facing upwards. Therefore, the Bisei Tourism Association once again visited Panasonic to request the development of lighting fixtures that meet the standards.
In response to this, Panasonic ensured the safety and security of the local residents while maintaining the necessary brightness for crime prevention, and began developing lighting equipment that met the IDA’s standards. A custom-made product featuring specifications with an upper luminous flux rate of 0% and a color temperature of 3000K or less was developed, and in January 2020, two models were certified.
White LED security lights installed in Bisei
White LED security lights with cut louvers installed as test equipment
White LED security lights with cut louvers installed as test equipment (front right) and existing white LED security lights (two lights at the left rear)
The security lights installed as test equipment illuminating the town with gentle light
Looking towards the “International Dark Sky Places” certification
“We will be asking the residents of Bisei to understand that we will be replacing the lighting with security lights that are friendly towards starlit skies, so we will continue to carefully transmit our message while working together with the Bisei Tourism Association,” says Shoji Taga, Section Chief of the Settlement Tourism Division, Future Planning Department. On top of that, they are planning on accelerating the initiatives of replacing the security lighting and applying for the “International Dark Sky Places®” certification.
From an age when we didn't realize that excess light was harmful to an age where the coexistence of human life and the starlit skies is expected. Panasonic, which has continued to produce bright lighting, will continue to make further progress on their countermeasures against light pollution. We will use the development of this equipment as an opportunity to make sincere efforts to protect the starlit skies and respond to inquiries from other municipalities.
Banner installed in Bisei as an enlightenment activity for the preservation of the starlit skies