Lighting up Auckland

If you’ve been on the other side of the ditch recently, you may have seen a nighttime illumination of a greener kind, as the Auckland Harbour Bridge was transformed by the launch of Vector Lights. Yet while lighting up structures is not a new phenomenon, what is remarkable about this installation is that it features a renewable energy technology powered light show that bridges the gap between art, culture and the latest innovations in sustainable lighting.

The cutting-edge installation is designed, managed, installed and programmed by Mandylights, vividly demonstrating the new lighting capabilities and a smarter way to power Auckland as part of a 10-year smart energy partnership between Vector Limited and Auckland Council.

The audio-visual performance is made up of three chapters – the first references Tama-Nui te Ra (the sun), the original source of energy, and the second Hikohiko (electrical energy) representing it as energy and technology, and the final Hei te Ao Marama (the future world of light) as an acknowledgement to the diversity and culture in Auckland.

“We approached this architectural project in the same way as we approach any light artwork, concert tour or special event design” said Richard Neville, managing director of Mandylights. “Put simply, we want to make it look cool. Our design, pitch and attitude has always been to eschew the traditional mathematical, paint-by-numbers architectural lighting design approach in favour of coming up with a highly spectacular design that turned the bridge into its own unique light show.”

Vector were looking for a way to illuminate the Harbour Bridge in a highly energy efficient manner. The design had to be sympathetic and able to communicate New Zealand ideals and values.

“We needed to be able to show how we would communicate Maori designs and traditional patterns through whatever we did on the bridge,” added Richard. “Another important creative element was to emphasis the connection to the water. The bridge sits very low down to the harbour which is unusual. Of course, it had to be cost effective too.”

LED-ing lighting

From the beginning Richard was clear that he wanted to light the Bridge with three types of LED fixtures in three very definite styles. A wash light was required to light the internal structure of the Bridge, a linear strip to outline the entire exterior perimeter of the structure and finally, an LED dot fixture for the 170 diagonals and verticals under the Bridge.

Mandylights looked at a few variations of applicable LED fixtures but found they gravitated towards Martin due to the reliability of product and the support offered by their Australian and New Zealand distributor Show Technology.

“We worked extremely closely with Martin on this project as there were many custom components needed, including a 505mm pitch on the VC dots to allow for thermal expansion in the hot months,” commented Michael. “Martin were really supportive and fantastic to deal with on such a massive undertaking, it was their largest LED installation to date with over 90,000 LEDs installed. Simply put, there wasn’t much that was off the shelf and they helped to tailor their reliable products to meet our specific needs.”

Windy Business

The installation process took just over five months and Richard commented that there were a lot of Work Health and Safety restrictions to overcome. Due to high winds on the bridge there were even a few weeks when the crew were unable to work because some of the necessary equipment for the installation on the Bridge would not be safe over certain wind speeds.
Martin Exterior Wash 200 were chosen for wash lighting with Richard describing them as incredibly bright and versatile.

A total of 90,000 Martin LEDs were used on the Bridge marking Martin’s largest ever architectural LED installation. All of the Martin equipment runs off the Martin P3 System Controller which is fed video by two media servers. However, the entire system is controlled by an MA2 network so at every distribution board installed on the Bridge by Mandylights, there’s an MA2 4Port Node. Additional Nodes are in the control room.

Sustainably bright

The Bridge is the first main bridge in the world to have all its lighting needs fully met by solar and battery technology. The project integrates a mix of leading technology, using the latest solar, battery and peer-to-peer systems to deliver stored energy to the bridge. By using peer-to-peer technology, it is possible to virtualise the connection between the battery and the bridge and therefore balance the energy being used and discharged at any time.

Energy generated by the solar panels, situated in Wynyard Quarter, is stored in Tesla Powerpack (a battery). Currently there are 248 solar panels providing energy for the bridge with more to follow bringing the total to 600.

By using solar and battery to power Vector Lights, as opposed to traditional means, 13.6 tons of carbon is prevented from going into the atmosphere each year. When the additional solar panels are installed and battery to power the street lights on the bridge, the carbon avoided each year will increase to 27 tons.

Vector Lights is part of a wider 10-year smart energy partnership between Vector and Auckland Council, with the Vector Lights project being delivered in collaboration with the NZ Transport Agency.

This article has been sourced from the following resources:

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