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Although the light pollution abatement measures are not complete, comments from researchers at the Observatory and residents of the Mt. Megantic region are very encouraging.  Bernard Malenfant, the founder of the ASTROLab, is very enthusiastic; “We no longer see sky domes over local municipalities when the sky is cloudy.  We also have to go back to using flashlights when we walk outside the Observatory.  It's incredible!”

See the results for yourself for the town of La Patrie.
 
The town of La Patrie in 2006
The town of La Patrie in 2006
The town of La Patrie in 2008
 
Sensitization

Before establishment of new regulations and conversion of existing light fixtures, it was first necessary to sensitize everyone to the extent of the problem and subsequent benefits of the project. This included contacting elected officials, luminaire manufacturers and distributors, lighting professionals and technicians and the general public across the territory covered. The public awareness campaign was thus carried out through discussions with politicians, training sessions with professionals, press releases to the media and distribution of information to the public at large.

The ASTROLab worked hard to sensitize the public by:

  1. regularly publishing articles in municipal bulletins of the region;
  2. producing handouts (pamphlets, calendars, stickers, etc.) that would develop a distinct feeling of belonging to the project;
  3. proposing educational activities to its visitors;
  4. posting relevant information on its internet website.

 

In 2003, most Quebeckers had never heard of light pollution, except for astronomers and astrophysicists and a few citizens and elected officials near Mt. Megantic. Today, most Townshippers and a great number of Quebeckers realize the extent of the problem, notably due to enthusiastic media coverage. Since the beginning of the project, over 50 interviews have aired on the radio, about 60 articles have been published in various newspapers and magazines and about 15 documentaries have been televised.

Public awareness initiatives continue to this day to ensure that the influence of the project continues to spread in the future.

 
Regulations

The light pollution abatement project could not go ahead without the establishment of new regulations that would protect the night sky in accordance with the principles of quality lighting. Certain by-laws regarding exterior lighting were already in existence before the project, but the ASTROLab team wished to propose a detailed framework to the municipalities that would take into account the latest trends in lighting design and energy efficiency. Recommendations were first considered from professional organizations such as:

  1. the International Commission on Illumination;
  2. the International Dark-Sky Association;
  3. the Institution of Lighting Engineers;
  4. the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America;
  5. etc.

A legislative framework appropriate to Quebec was then elaborated under the supervision of a group of experts who were consulted throughout the entire process. This ensured the suitability and breadth of the proposed norms. The committee was composed of:

  1. Gilles Meunier, engineer (Hydro Québec)
  2. Germain Gauthier (Illuminating Engineering Society-Montreal Section, Lumec Inc.)
  3. Chrisnel Blot, engineer (Spectralux Industries Inc.)
  4. Wilbert Simard (IME Experts Conseil Inc.)
  5. Yan Triponez, city planner (Granit MRC)
  6. Eric Ladouceur, supervisor photometric applications (Lumec Inc.)
  7. Yvan Dutil, astrophysicist

After one year of preparation, draft regulations on exterior lighting were proposed to the Haut St. François and Granit MRCs as well as to the City of Sherbrooke. All three regions accepted the proposals and passed them as municipal by-laws.



Lighting fixture conversion

The ASTROLab action plan included implementation of an ambitious luminaire conversion program. Conversion of outdoor lighting fixtures was planned to reduce light pollution, allow energy savings and make the region into a special model that would be a showcase for innovative and efficient night lighting.

Once the new regulations came into force, it was time to commence lighting conversion, particularly in the communities in the immediate vicinity of Mt. Megantic (zone 1). The public and private lighting conversion program was put into action in 2006 with financial support from:

  1. Natural Resources Canada
  2. Hydro Québec
  3. the Quebec Ministry of Affaires Municipales et des Régions
  4. the Conférence Régionale des Élus (CRE) of the Eastern Townships
  5. the Mt. Megantic provincial park and the Société des Établissements de Plein Air du Quebec (SÉPAQ)
  6. Laval University, University of Montreal, McGill University and the Mt. Megantic Observatory
  7. the Desjardins Caisses Populaires of the Eastern Townships.

 

The program offered an all-inclusive service to those clients (businesses, municipalities or individuals) who wished to take advantage of the subsidies offered by the ASTROLab. In order to reach its dual goals of reducing light pollution and energy consumption, the conversion strategy was based on one or more of the following:

  1. to eliminate sources of white light and high energy-consuming bulbs (mercury vapour and halogen);
  2. to replace luminaires that cast light upwards to the sky;
  3. to reduce over-illumination;
  4. to extinguish certain lights outside operating hours.

The program was a huge success and the results surpassed the ASTROLab's expectations. Here is a brief resumé of this unique showcase in Canada:

  1. 16 municipalities were concerned
  2. The total cost of the project was 1.7 million dollars over three years
  3. 700 sites were evaluated in the residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural and institutional sectors
  4. Over 3,300 luminaires have been replaced
  5. Energy savings of about 1,900,000 kWh/ year have been recorded, which represents almost $200,000 per year

 

In summary, these conversions have resulted in an average decrease of 30% energy consumption for roadway illumination and 60% for other lighting applications.

The outcome of the conversion program and future reductions in light pollution will be measured by the Groupe de recherche et d'applications en physique at the Sherbrooke CÉGEP (GRAPHYCS) [www.graphycs.qc.ca] using a special high-intensity spectrophotometer.