Interview with:

Kai-Uwe Huonker (SVS) on LED Conversion in Villingen-Schwenningen

The Stadtwerke Villingen-Schwenningen (SVS) has specialised in street lighting for many years. It is currently implementing what the German Federal Ministry for the Environment has determined, to be the largest LED conversion project in Germany. We spoke to Kai-Uwe Huonker, Head of Energy Services at the SVS, about street lighting in general as well as the project in Villingen-Schwenningen.

As a regional power utility company, SVS has extensive expertise in the field of street lighting. Since when is this one of your areas of focus and why?

We have been intensively involved in street lighting since the founding of the Stadtwerke Villingen-Schwenningen in 1972. It has always been important for us to offer operations management regionally. As part of the LED rollout in 2011 in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research competition ‘Municipalities in New Light’, in which an inter-municipality project was launched, we had the opportunity to carry out various LED projects. This allowed us to gain extensive experience in the area of LEDs, which we later were able to put to use in our work with other municipalities. This gave birth to the idea of developing an independent business field – and of becoming active outside of our business area.

That means you are also implementing street lighting projects for other cities and municipalitilities. What advantages do they have due to this?

In 2006, we had our first LED test area on our premises. In 2010 – with lights from Hess – we were able to put into operation the first real test area in the grid in Schwenningen. In this respect, other cities and municipal utilities benefit from the experiences we had and also the mistakes that we made. We can make valuable contributions.
We develop concepts for cities and public utility companies that are self-contained and also offer individual components – from data collection to concept development through to handling the entire construction process. At the end of the day, we hand over a finished and complete system to the cities or public utility companies.

For which cities or public utility companies were or are you already active?

We have implemented large projects for the cities of Singen, Alzey and Wiesloch. We are currently working for Sachsenheim (population of roughly 18,000), Aldingen (Population of roughly 8000) and Wildberg (population of roughly 10,000).

Are the lighting concepts similar or are different priorities set?

Every lighting concept is customised! In each project, we determine the needs – and they differ completely from one project to the next. There are also very specific requirements – regarding the luminaires that are worthy of being preserved, for example – or areas that are used for smart illumination. One Thing is usually the same, however: The optimal use of energy savings. Here it is important to fully exploit the entire potential.
Due to different applications and requirements, we develop custom concepts, as previously mentioned.

You are currently converting Villingen-Schwenningen completely to LED – with around 13,400 light sources. Is this a big project for you?

Definitely – the biggest project we’ve implemented so far. According to the BMU, it is the largest project in Germany in relation to the fact that it will be implemented within just two years. We are relying on three luminaire models – all from Hess. This ensures a uniform cityscape and saves costs in future.

How many luminaires can you retrofit per day and what is the current status?

We convert between 25 and 30 luminaires a day with one team. At times, we work with three to four teams per day, allowing us to do a large number of installations and make very fast progress.

How satisfied are you with how things are going?

I’m very satisfied. The timely delivery of luminaires by Hess is working great. And we are also more than satisfied with the results – the outstanding quality of the light. You of course make calculations in advance – but experiencing the results yourself and seeing how well the illumination has turned out is something completely different.
The quality of the right partner – that is, the luminaire manufacturer – is reflected here as well.

Thüga AG (the largest association of municipal energy and water utility company in Germany) holds a 30% stake in SVS. How do you benefit from this?

Thüga is not a pure equity investment. Rather, advisory services are offered throughout the utility sector, such as legal resources or benchmarking on a variety of topics. There is also a working group explicitly for street lighting, to which we also belong. This results in exchange of experience on a regular basis. The network thrives on this mutual exchange. Thüga is a very important partner for us, going far beyond joint material procurement.

How do you see further development in terms of lighting and the street lighting grid?

In the meantime, LEDs have made many wishes a reality in regard to the Quality and longevity of lighting. For the future, I think a lot will be happening in terms of the street lighting grid and the equipment. This could range from traffic control plans to traffic guidance through to autonomous driving and fine particulate matter measurements.
These topics will surely be addressed and pursued using the existing street lighting grid. This will definitely become a separate business field. E-mobility will also be enabled to a limited extent by the street lighting grid. Limited because, due to the cross-section of the grid, the necessary high energy transfer will not be possible. But it will also play a role in niche areas.
Everyone is already talking about WLAN and hotspot connections. In addition, topics relevant to security are becoming increasingly important, which can be addressed by cameras integrated in the lighting system. Here I see a need at focal points such as train stations and pub miles. I am thus strengthened in my conviction that the future will be associated with many exciting and useful options that we will integrate into lighting systems.
Thank you, Mr Huonker.