While large solar electric systems on homes and businesses are the quintessential model of solar power, some of the less common applications make an equal statement while also providing specific needs.
Canada-based Carmanah has successfully tapped some less common niche markets for solar where their product's electrical autonomy plays a big part.
Their latest major project is with the Truckee Tahoe Airport in California, where the runway lighting will be solar-powered, thereby cutting costs required for running electrical power the length of the airfield.
The Truckee Tahoe Airport is currently installing 560 units of Carmanah's Model 601 solar-powered LED lights. These units were purchased in December 2003 for permanent taxiway edge lighting, and it is estimated that the installation will realize over $272,000 in cost savings for the airport.
"Truckee Tahoe joins a rapidly growing list of airports discovering the safety, reliability and cost advantages of solar LED lighting," Carmanah's CEO, Art Aylesworth said. "We spent a significant portion of 2003 educating the market about our technology and proving its viability. We are confident that 2004 will be a year when the technology is embraced."
In 2003, the Truckee Tahoe Airport District looked to taxiway edge lighting to meet its goal of increased airport safety. Taxiway edge lights provide better guidance to pilots and reduce the hazard of runway incursions. An extensive economic analysis found that Carmanah's solar-powered LED (light-emitting diode) lights, which are completely self-contained and require no external wiring, would save more than US$272,000 over an eight-year period, when compared with a traditional hard-wired system, the company said. With zero operational inputs required, Carmanah lights will save Truckee Tahoe up to $18,000 per year in maintenance and electricity costs alone.
"The savings can be put toward upgrading other infrastructure at the airport", Aylesworth said.
In addition, the Truckee Tahoe installation will be used as an example by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to assist in developing new lighting guidelines for general aviation airports across the United States.
In the United States, there are approximately 5,000 general aviation (non-commercial) airports similar to Truckee Tahoe and an additional 9,000 private airports. Only about half of these airports currently have lighting, therefore this market represents a significant opportunity for the company.
Cost-cutting LEDs, which use significantly less electricity and last up to 100 times longer than traditional tungsten halogen airport lights, are just beginning to enter the aviation market in large numbers. Carmanah officially launched its aviation products less than a year ago, and already has over 5,000 lights installed at airports in 30 countries, including at U.S. military bases in the Middle East, Asia and North America, as well as many international airports such as Chicago O'Hare, Toronto Pearson, Ottawa, Auckland and Milan.
Carmanah's solar-powered LED lights are immune to electrical grid blackouts. They turn on and off automatically and operate year round under all environmental conditions. The key, according to Carmanah, is the company's Microsource integration technology, a combination of sophisticated, patented micro-electronics and software originally developed for demanding requirements and exacting standards of the marine lighting industry.