By Patti Berkstresser | 
Bandera Electric Cooperative and The Real County Night Skies team, part of Keep It Real-ly Beautiful, have taken a major step in the reduction of light pollution in our community.  BEC has installed three Dark Sky Compliant outdoor lighting choices on HWY 337 to assist customers with choosing dark sky friendly lights.  Signs have been installed on each of the three lights, designating the wattage and output.  The 50-Watt LED light, the best choice for Dark Skies, is on the north side of 337, across from the BEC offices.  The 80-Watt and 100-Watt lights are on the south side of the road.  Did you know a 50-Watt LED emits roughly the same amount of light as a 100-Watt traditional street light?
Many of the current street lights and yard security lights shine light into the night sky as well as on the ground.  This light pollution wastes energy and money and creates a light “dome” over Real County, which can be seen for miles.  Directing the light downward and using only the amount of light needed is crucial in creating darker skies.
As the International Dark Sky Places program is rapidly expanding, more and more people learn of the benefits of a dark sky designation, another goal for our area. Here’s a sampling of some of the positive impacts a designation can provide.

  1. It helps attracts more visitors

Gaining dark sky status means that parks and communities provide public education about dark skies. In addition, the community promotes and advocates the great sky viewing available with dark skies.  A designation is also a good marketing tool because it provides new and unique ways to draw visitors.

  1. It brings economic benefits to surrounding communities

The increase in visitors due to a dark sky designation also means an increase in customers for local area businesses. Dark skies have proven to have a positive impact on businesses in studied areas.

  1. It improves both human and wildlife health.

Unnatural light disrupts feeding and breeding, impacts migratory patterns and life cycles and affects human natural rhythms.
What can you do to help with this cause?  Look at your lights to determine if a directional adjustment, shielding, or light replacement would contribute to a darker sky and still maintain the light you need.  An LED light will not only reduce light pollution, but can reduce monthly expenditures for lighting.  A program to help defray the cost of replacing one’s outdoor light(s) with BEC will be announced soon.  For more information please contact Patti Berkstresser at