Shining Moscow: who lights capital's streets

December 13, 2021
Municipal services

December 8 (November 27 under the Julian calendar) is the anniversary of Moscow public lighting. On this day in 1730, Empress Anna Ioannovna issued a decree, after which the first lanterns appeared in Moscow. They were installed in the Kremlin, Kitay-gorod, White and Zemlyanoy cities and on large streets. They did not burn every day — only by special order. Lanterns luminous intensity was equal to pair of candles.

Almost 300 years later, Moscow is one of the five most illuminated cities in the world. Almost a million lamps are lit in Moscow every evening. The most beautiful buildings are decorated with architectural lighting.

“Over the past 10 years, the level of illumination in Moscow increased by 1.5 times, the number of buildings with architectural lighting has quadrupled. Today the Russian capital is one of the five most illuminated cities in the world. At the same time, electricity consumption does not increase. The introduction of new technologies increases the reliability and efficiency of outdoor lighting, allows specialists to monitor its operation online and promptly respond to possible malfunctions, which, in turn, helps to save energy", Pyotr Biryukov, Deputy Moscow Mayor for Housing, Utilities and Landscaping, said.

Employees of United Energy Company JSC (OEC) and State Unitary Enterprise Mossvet told how the lighting system of Moscow is arranged and who turns on the lights on the streets.

Modern lamplighters

The oil was used for the first lanterns. They were replaced by kerosene lanterns, then - by gas and electric ones. In the 21st, Moscow streets are mainly illuminated by LEDs. They are more durable, provide better and more pleasing light and save energy.

Mossvet Enterprise operates over 500 thousand outdoor lighting installations. And this figure does not include lamps of private companies. The maintenance of such a number of bulbs and lamps is carried out by the employees of the OEK company. One of them is an electrician Eduard Tolstov. He repairs lighting poles and replaces broken lamps.

Eduard Tolstov

“We carry out all work as needed. When the old lamps have served their life, they need to be replaced with new, more energy efficient ones. We change the lamps as their service life expires,” says the specialist.

He is electrician since 2008 — he maintains lights in the courtyards of houses and along the roadway — Ryazansky and Volgogradsky avenues, Lyublinskaya street, MKAD and other places. According to Eduard Tolstov, it is much more dangerous to work on the roads, but he and his colleagues are used to it.

“When we see the work done, we get positive emotions. It's nice to know that thanks to our efforts, everything is illuminated. I love making the city brighter,” says the electrician.

From mountains to city buildings

Architectural illumination helps to decorate the buildings and streets. Over the past 10 years, the number of buildings and structures decorated with lightning has almost quadrupled — today there are more than 2.2 thousand of them. Houses on pedestrian routes and highways, buildings along embankments, bridges, temples and overpasses are illuminated. Today it is practically a individual art.

An industrial climber, high-altitude electrician Gennady Belousov helps to illuminate Moscow buildings. Since childhood, he was engaged in sports tourism — he conquered mountains, descended into caves. “At first I liked to climb mountains, but now I climb city buildings,” says the climber.

Gennady Belousov

Gennady installed the lighting on the Moscow Art Theater, the buildings of the Arbat street, many churches, but he calls the lighting design of the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment the most spectacular. “Buildings are illuminated to decorate them at night — highlight outlines, reliefs, historical stucco and other architectural details. Moscow at night is like fairy tale. Look, for example, at the Garden Ring — it's very beautiful,” he says.

According to Gennady Belousov, it is not enough just to mount the lighting, it is important to maintain it correctly. The equipment can fail due to temperature changes, it can be accidentally damaged when repairing the facade or deicing.

“I like that in my profession you need to keep yourself in good shape, always be ready for new mounts. Something interesting happens every day. And also, when I walk with my friends, it's nice to see what Moscow looks like. You look at the illuminated building and remember how you decorated it and what stories are associated with it,” the climber notes.

Lightning Control Center

Moscow street lights have been equipped with special controllers for several years. With their help, lighting can be controlled remotely: monitor the operating mode, adjust the brightness, check the voltage. The OEK control center employees resolve such issues.

Sergey Krysanov is the head of operators’ shift. Seven employees are responsible for public lighting of city districts, two for architectural lighting and one for festive illumination. Usually all equipment works automatically: lighting turns on and off according to a pre-approved schedule, operators only control the process.

“In some cases, we operate in manual mode, for example, with cloudy weather. I read the illumination data (sensors are installed throughout all Moscow) and, if necessary, command to turn on the lighting half an hour earlier, so that people feel comfortable,” says Sergey Krysanov.

Sergey Krysanov

The lighting schedule is highly dependent on the season. On short summer nights, the lights are turned on for only a few hours, and at the end of December they are lit from four p.m. until almost nine a.m.

“If line short circuits or blackouts occur, we solve such situations very quickly. We see abnormal situations on our computers: it is clear that the equipment is failing, but the reason is unknown. Specialists are sent on the field for troubleshooting and eliminate it,” says Sergey Krysanov.

Expert control

The work of city lighting is supervised by specialists of the State Unitary Enterprise "Mossvet". This organization operates lanterns, architectural lighting, decorative illumination and street clocks. Senior engineer Alexey Danadaev is in charge of technical supervision. He is responsible for lightning operation, and the poles integrity and cleanness.

Once a year, a specialist checks lighting poles on major highways — Mira Avenue, Garden Ring, Third Transport Ring and others.

Aleksey Danadaev

New lanterns are installed with the improvement of streets and courtyards. Mossvet experts decide which lamps are suitable for a particular purpose. “When I started operate the public lighting, dim mercury lamps were used for Moscow main streets. Then they were replaced by sodium lamps with yellow light. Today they are replaced by LEDs,” says the engineer.

According to him, sometimes Muscovites ask to replace outdated lamps in the courtyards. Then the employees of Mossvet give an order to the operating organization. “In the past, the high lanterns in the courtyards were used, and people complained that they were shining through their windows. Today we recommend installing small torchere-type lightning with even illumination field,” notes Aleksey Danadaev.

Aesthetics of lighting

Department of State Unitary Enterprise Mossvet, where Dmitry Russkikh works, is engaged in the development of architectural lighting and festive illumination. They plan the objects to be illuminated, control the creation of the architectural lighting and monitor its operation.

“Our task is to show the beauty of architecture. We do not highlight every building, we choose the most significant from the historical, architectural or urban planning point of view. Illumination makes the lightning milieu more diverse, the city becomes colorful and attractive,” Dmitry Russkikh emphasizes.

Dmitry Russkih

Moscow government starts the unified lightning milieu program in 2011. Then lighting concepts was developed not only for individual buildings, but for entire streets. For Dmitry Russkikh the most unforgettable projects are the central city ones - Kremlin, Tverskaya Street and Arbat.

“I like that I can participate in the project at every stage - from development to implementation of design solutions. I'm interested in every stage. My work is connected not only with engineering and technical issues; great attention is paid to the aesthetics of lighting in general,” says Dmitry Russkikh.


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