Street lighting can impact bats’ feeding patterns and internal compasses, as well as the activity of their insect prey, but a town in the Netherlands is taking steps to help the bats out. Zuidhoek Nieuwkoop, a housing development of around 90 sustainable homes near the Nieuwkoopse Plassen nature reserve, has installed what are thought to be the world’s first bat-friendly streetlights. The red LED lights from Signify, formerly Philips Lighting, brighten the road for humans, but the the bats still perceive the light as darkness.

Bat-friendly street lighting from Signify in Zuidhoek Nieuwkoop

The town and surrounding area are part of the Natura 2000, a network of nesting and breeding sites for rare and threatened species across the European Union. These sites don’t all exclude human activities; in fact, most of the land is privately owned. The approach to conservation on these sites revolves around “people working with nature rather than against it,” according to the European Commission.

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Bat-friendly lighting could fit that bill. Zuidhoek Nieuwkoop, according to Signify, is a key feeding ground “for some rare bat species.” The energy-efficient streetlights emit red with a wavelength that won’t interfere with the flying mammals’ internal compasses. The lighting is based on 2017 research from Wageningen University, the Netherlands Institute of Ecology, and Philips Lighting.

A street in a Dutch town on a cloudy day

Nieuwkoop city council member Guus Elkhuizen said, “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 and activities. We’ve managed to do this and also keep our carbon footprint and energy consumption to a minimum.”

+ Signify

+ Zuidhoek Nieuwkoop

Images courtesy of Signify