The US EPA Facility in Raleigh, NC Research Triangle Park installed 68 solar roadway lighting systems in 2001 along with two solar sign lighting systems. This older*, well-established project is still going strong today, over 20 years later. This project showcases the longevity of a well-designed commercial solar lighting system and how these lights can hold up to time.
Most press releases and project articles happen when the installation occurs; however, we wanted to showcase this project after its 10-year mark (the original article date) and again at 20 years. Although a new and developing technology at its installation time, solar lighting systems were beginning to find a niche in their applicational uses. Now, over the course of the last 20+ years, solar lights have been able to evolve due to some longer well-established projects proving the longevity cost savings and impact the technology can offer as we progress forward. This project showcases the reliability, performance, and overall cost-effectiveness of commercial solar roadway lights.
The EPA worked with the local power company on a lease-purchase arrangement for the 70 solar lighting systems along the site roadways and entrances. This was one of the largest solar roadway lighting projects in the US at the time. The power company was able to take advantage of the 35% tax credit from the State of North Carolina for the solar power equipment which reduced the system cost making it cost-justifiable.
The roadway to the EPA was lit with solar shoebox lighting systems and includes a mile of photovoltaic-powered street lights that light the road from dusk to dawn. Chris Long, the EPA’s Project Manager commented, "We're extremely pleased with the installation. We're committed to using cost-effective technologies that reduce our air pollution impact, and this project speaks volumes about our commitment to clean, renewable energy." This project also won the IESNA Award and has provided the EPA 10 years of reliability and quality lighting with little maintenance.
The project was initiated by the EPA's Green Lights program. The program helped transform the market for energy-efficient electronic fluorescent ballasts concluded a study by Marvin J. Horowitz. His findings were published in The Energy Journal. The Alliance to Save Energy also completed a report called Economic Indicators of Market Transformation: Energy Efficient Lighting and EPA's Green Lights that can be downloaded from the Alliance to Save Energy website.
Today, the original lights still stand as well as the two entrance sign lighting systems. SEPCO has been able to work with various electrical contractors to ensure proper operation of the lights and provide troubleshooting and replacement parts. Since LED technology has been taking over since the project installation, LED fixtures will begin to replace the older compact fluorescent fixtures that were initially installed.
Since LED fixtures provide more light output than old compact fluorescent lamps, the efficiencies can be used to allow for solar degradation and make the systems last quite a bit longer. Only time will tell how long these systems will function, but this is a great project to update every 10 years or so and see how they are going.