NASSAU - Solar powered lights will be installed at 16 Family Islands airports at a cost of $2.3 million by October of this year, Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin announced last Thursday.
"The installation of these lights to Family Island runways will bring tremendous relief to the residents of these islands, who have for years been forced to rely on the use of vehicles' lights to illuminate runways and taxiways during emergencies," Minister Hanna-Martin said.
The government signed an agreement with Carmanah Technologies Corp, a Canadian company that supplies solar powered lights used by civilian and defence operations in 110 countries worldwide, the Minister said at a press conference
The 16 airports identified for solar powered lights are at Colonel Hill, Crooked Island; Spring Point, Acklins; Staniel Cay, Black Point and Farmer's Cay in the Exumas; Congo Town and Mangrove Cay in Andros; Deadman's Cay, Long Island; Sandy Point and Moore's Island in Abaco, New Bight, Cat Island; Port Nelson, Rum Cay; Duncan Town, Ragged Island; Great Inagua; Great Harbour Cay, the Berry Islands and South Bimini.
"These airports were selected by virtue of the frequency of medical evacuations which have been required at those airports over the years," said Minister Hanna-Martin.
The Minister said the solar powered lights will also be installed at the remaining 13 government airports, within the current budget period, which ends June 30, 2007.
"At the end of this fiscal year, we anticipate that every government-owned airport on every Family Island will have runway edge lighting systems," Minister Hanna-Martin said.
She noted that solar lights are certified by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), are extremely cost effective, and once installed are virtually maintenance free.
Allister Wilmott, sales manager, Aviation Division, Carmanah, said it will take little to minimal expertise to set up the lights and once installed, will operate from dusk until dawn each night for five years. Afterwards, he said, a battery pack can simply be replaced, and the same product will last another five years.
Wilmott said this cycle can go on for 25 to 30 years of maintenance free lighting and such a system is ideal for The Bahamas because it is waterproof, robust and rugged.
He said the technology is being chosen as the "leading permanent and portable emergency lighting solutions" for national defence organisations, national civil aviation authorities, and private corporate organisations.
"It is the advent of wireless technology. In inclement weather conditions or in the daytime when it may be foggy, the airport operators will have the ability to send a wireless signal to the lights, increasing their intensity," Wilmott said.
Added Minister Hanna-Martin: "The installation of these lights signal the continuation of this government's conscientious programme towards the upgrade of Family Island airports, a thrust which will eventually culminate in an increase of the level of aircraft activity, including the introduction of night flights into Family Island airports."
She said the project foreshadows the infrastructural groundwork for increased economic development for Family Island communities.