Page last updated at 14:29 GMT, Friday, 7 August 2009 15:29 UK

One town's bid to cut energy costs

Veronica Psetizki
BBC Mundo, Suarez

Green lighting in Uruguay
Solar power lights are more reliable and save energy and money

This is not a typical town square in Uruguay.

The square, in the town of Suarez some 40km from the capital Montevideo, has gone over to solar energy and LED technology.

The aim is to reduce electricity costs and at the same time light more streets.

If it works, the plan could serve as a model for other towns across the country.

In the current economic crisis and upward pressure on electricity prices, it should be a way of reducing energy costs.

Energy savings

"The energy crisis will continue to get worse and city councils and the state will have to deal with that," Leonardo D'Andrea of the local town council explained to BBC Mundo.

The BBC is Taking the Pulse of the Global Economy, looking at a range of subjects this summer
Consumer behaviour - how have lifestyles changed over the year
Food prices - which remain a concern particularly in many developing economies
Highly volatile energy prices - which have been a major issue in the past year
The plight of migrant workers - as the global recession takes hold in many economies
Housing markets - which have turned from boom to bust in many countries
Rising unemployment levels - as firms cut back because of falling orders

"We decided to try out solar energy lamps in the town square and if it works, then we will apply it to all public lights in the town," he said.

"The lighting had been very unstable and a few years ago we installed sodium lights, which are more modern but use a lot of energy and are more polluting."

"Each lamp costs $30 a month (£18) and we know that with LED lamps we would save between 70% and 90% on energy costs."

Light emitting diodes (LED) are semi-conductors which give bright light but use very little energy.

They can be charged with solar energy as well as electricity and can give light for up to four days.

"These lamps are very expensive if you buy them from China, Taiwan or Japan," says Juan José Marchelli, director of Uruled, the local firm which proposed the experiment.

Locally made

This is why he decided to import the diodes but manufacture the bulbs locally.

Installing a new light
It is hoped that new jobs will be created

"We recycled lamp posts which had fallen into disrepair."

"Instead of glass, we put in anti-vandal polycarbonate and we adapted lamps that were made in Uruguay."

"Then we introduced solar panels into the supports," he said.

The authorities are examining how cost-effective they are.

If they prove worthwhile they will buy equipment to make the lamps in Uruguay.

"The idea is to manufacture the lights in Uruguay and replace high energy lighting with these low energy ones. At the same time we'll create jobs in the community," says Mr Marchelli.


Nicolas Vilaro, director-general of public works in Canelones said: "With electricity prices continuing to rise, we are trying to find alternatives, however small the scale."

The city council's energy bill comes $400,000 and about 70% of that is for street lighting.

"For that reason we are keen to make even the smallest of energy savings so we can free up money for other projects," says Mr Vilaro.

"We are going to install some 20 columns with solar panels and energy accumulators to test out their efficiency," he says.

"Maybe in a few years' time you won't see single posts with a bulb - they'll all have solar panels behind them."

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