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City of Ward in talks over solar streetlights

Ward Mayor Art Brooke told the City Council at Monday’s meeting that he was in the process of discussing the possible installation of solar-powered streetlights in the Deerfield area of Ward.  Though Brooke did not give the name of the company that produces the lights, he said that the battery packs for the lights are good anywhere between 15 and 20 years and could save the city (and taxpayers) about $30,000 every year.  The mayor has not yet received an estimate of the cost of such an installation, but he believes the cost could be covered by an energy efficiency grant.  

Solar-powered streetlights normally work through photovoltaic panels, which absorb and store energy from the sun throughout the day, and then use this energy to keep the lights bright throughout the night.  These lights often use LED rather than incandescent bulbs, in order to increase efficiency.  LED bulbs last longer and provide a brighter light.  Because of the way these panels store energy, light is available through poor weather (and obviously at night), when the sun is not visible.  Whether or not power outages are a concern depends on whether the lights will be tied to the greater electricity grid.  Lights that are tied to the grid will lose power if there is an outage, but lights that operate purely through solar power will not.  

There are advantages in either method.  For example, because of the way grid-tied solar energy works, any additional power generated from a particular location is fed back into the grid, ticking back the electricity meter for that particular location. Then, when a location has to use power that is not generated by the sun, this electricity comes at a much lower cost, because of prior contributions to the grid, which could be huge during Arkansas’ often rainless summers.  This method of generation can ultimately save a lot of money for cities or for individuals, and it has the advantage of ensuring two possible power supplies, in case something goes wrong with the primary source.   

The details of Ward’s possible investment in solar energy have not been fleshed out, but it is certain that regardless of how this project is implemented, Ward taxpayers will save a lot of money in the long run. 

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