Energy efficiency research funding boost

LED lights have many proven environmental benefits, but the darker side of LEDs for native wildlife is being investigated as one of five PhD scholarships awarded to La Trobe students through the University’s Net Zero fund.

The fund, sponsored by Sonepar, includes $300,000 to enable five research projects and $200,000 for research supporting La Trobe’s commitment to becoming more sustainable.

The projects include work to investigate how Artificial Intelligence can assist with energy optimisation, and energy efficiency in the Internet of Things, heating and cooling systems, lighting, university research labs and offices.

La Trobe’s Net Zero program launched in 2019 and through a series of projects, aims to make the University carbon neutral by 2029.  The University’s regional campuses will be net zero by 2022.

La Trobe Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar AO said the Net Zero fund was a tremendous boost to the University’s already considerable progress towards sustainability.

“We are making real headway with our Net Zero program and through the Net Zero fund, we are able to invest in research initiatives that have the potential to advance energy efficiency, sustainability and lighting solutions.”

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Professor Dewar said La Trobe was pleased to work with Sonepar to trial new initiatives on campus, such as PhD student Alicia Dimovski’s work on the impact of LED lighting on nocturnal Australian animals, particularly sugar gliders at La Trobe’s Bundoora campus.

Miss Dimovski is one of five PhD students who will each receive a $20,000 scholarship as part of a newly established $500,000 Net Zero Fund supporting research, scholarships and student initiatives.

Miss Dimovski said white LEDs emit short, blue wavelengths that could have damaging effects on wildlife.

“Light pollution represents the most drastic change to the nocturnal environment by effectively turning night into day and we are only beginning to learn the impact this has on nocturnal ecology. This is of particular concern in Australia where over 80 per cent of our mammals are nocturnal,” she said.

Her work is part of a broader study being led by Dr Kylie Robert, La Trobe Senior Lecturer, Ecology, Environment & Evolution and the Research Centre for Future Landscapes, which aims to develop “wildlife friendly” LED lighting and has also received a share of the $300,000 research pool of the fund.

With the funding, Miss Dimovski and Dr Robert, will quantify the impact of artificial night lighting on wildlife, particularly urban sugar gliders, a small nocturnal marsupial, by assessing their behaviour and health parameters.

“In conjunction with lighting engineers, we hope to develop “wildlife-friendly” LED lighting. Most old technology streetlighting is now past its 25-30-year lifespan and this is a timely opportunity to develop and test sustainable, wildlife friendly lighting options that can be included in lighting design guidelines.”

Dr Robert said the project would assist in the formation of Australia’s much needed “wildlife lighting” guidelines and implementation of a certification program.

The Net Zero Fund projects commences this year. As part of the University’s Net Zero program, 24,000 LED lights have been fitted across all La Trobe Campuses and 7,000 solar panels have been installed on 27 buildings at the Melbourne Campus in Bundoora, with both projects helping La Trobe to reduce its energy consumption and reach carbon neutrality. An on-site composting unit also diverts from landfill all organic waste from cafes, kitchens and public spaces into a nutrient rich fertiliser used on campus gardens.

Scholarship recipients - total $100,000

  • Alicia Dimovski - Understand the impact of LED lighting on animals and test ‘wildlife-friendly’ LED lighting
  • Prabod Rathnayaka - Developing AI algorithms to minimise energy consumption
  • Quynh Ngo - Creating energy efficient and secure IoT devices
  • Haftu Tasew Reda - Detection of data integrity cyber attacks in smart grid based on data-driven approaches
  • Nicole Pavich - How film can play a role in reducing waste, pollution and exploitation caused by fast-fashion

Research projects – total $300,000

  • The dark side of energy efficient lighting: LED lights give wildlife the blues. Shifting spectral wavelengths to develop “Wildlife Friendly” lighting
  • An embedded solution to energy efficient lighting for La Trobe offices
  • Reducing the cost and emission from split HVAC systems
  • The 1st Australian Green Lab: Developing a framework for sustainable labs at La Trobe University
  • A multi-objective, multi-constraint modelling approach for energy minimisation

Student initiatives and other research

  • $100,000 to be allocated

Media Contact: Kathryn Powley | | 9479 3491 | 0456 764 371