When most people think about how they can help out the environment and go green, they think about green technologies they can use in their homes, in their cars or at their businesses. For city engineers, however, going green means turning everything from simple streetlights and city garbage compactors from energy hogs to energy savers. As things like solar panels continue to decline in cost, more and more cities are looking for items they can slap panels on and forget about. Some items end up becoming so efficient, they can be taken off the grid completely. Let’s take a look at just a few of the items that are set to be switched over to solar in your city.
Perhaps the best candidate for greening is solar street lighting. Since most streetlights are too high to be bothered by bored teenagers, a simple solar panel mount on a streetlight makes perfect sense. Today’s solar batteries are small and compact enough that they can be mounted under the panel and essentially hidden from view. Long time critics have pointed to the viability of solar street lighting in places like Seattle, Washington or Vancouver, British Columbia, noting the rainy and overcast conditions there during the winter months would make lighting impossible. In actuality, both cities now use solar street lighting in conjunction with more traditional lighting options, essentially destroying the myth that some regions can’t benefit from solar technology. The energy savings offered by solar street lighting are significant and easily offset the initial cost in only a few years. You can bet that more and more cities around the world will be switching to solar street lighting sooner rather than later.
The unmitigated success of solar street lighting has opened the door to other uses of solar panels in outdoor situations. In places like Orlando, Florida, where sunshine is plentiful, apartment complexes are switching to small, compact solar panel arrays to run a variety of outdoor equipment, such as garbage compactors. The tiny set of solar panels sit just about the controls, and although the nearby family of raccoons don’t seem to think it is a big deal, the power savings are significant. If powering a simple garbage compacter doesn’t impress you, how about using solar to power an entire public transit system?
A city in Columbia has recently unveiled a ski lift that doubles as a public transit system that is partially powered by sunlight. The gondolas are covered with solar panels that help to power the lift system that carries the cars to and from the two stations. The system has been hailed as the next major step in what solar panels are capable of. The system continues to run at night thanks in part to battery power that is filled during the day by solar power.
From solar street lighting to reliable solar powered public transit, the world of solar power has the ability to change all of our lives for the better.