Bat-Friendly Streetlights? One Dutch Town Just Got Them

On June 5th, the world’s first bat-friendly streetlights made their debut in a small town called Nieuwkoop in the Netherlands. This Dutch town is situated near a nature reserve, where a rare species of bats live. 

“Nieuwkoop is the first town in the world to use smart LED street lights that are designed to be friendly to bats. When developing our unique housing program our goal was to make the project as sustainable as possible, while preserving our local bat species with minimal impact to their habitat. We’ve managed to do this and kept our carbon footprint and energy consumption to a minimum.” – Guus Elkhuizen, City Council Member, Nieuwkoop municipality.

Bats are important for our environment. Simple as that. Certain species eat insects and pests that we can’t stand to live with. Other species help pollinate crops by spreading their seeds. Bats aren’t as populous as they once were, with the development of cities and towns. Bats are nocturnal and need to be feeding and doing other sorts of things at night. Certain light can influence a bat’s way of life, for sure. 

Signify, the world leading company in LED lighting and formerly known as Philips Lighting, was a part of the town’s bat-friendly streetlight project. The company’s red colored LED bulbs allow bats to stay out at night in their “hometown”, so to speak. Yes, we said red lights.

Scientists have concluded that the red color of these lights, along with a specific wavelength that doesn’t interfere with the bat’s senses, allows the bats to stay out in their known areas so they don’t have to travel long distances for food. They can eat and go about their normal bat activities because they perceive these special LEDs as emitting no light at all. 

“Bats don’t see red light as particularly bright, if they see it at all, So if you have certain bat species that are really avoiding light, we thought the obvious thing to do was take a portion of red light which is visible to us, but is much less visible, or perhaps even invisible, to bats.” – Maurice Donners, senior scientist and innovation specialist at Signify.

These bat-friendly streetlights aren’t for everywhere though, as Maurice Donners explains:

“In a really big city center with lots of noise and traffic and all kinds of other irritating factors for bats, it might not be that useful to do something like this. In areas where lighting is a predominant disturbing factor, and there is actually a reason to focus on bats and not on some particular other species, then this might be a good solution.” – Maurice Donners, senior scientist and innovation specialist at Signify.