Solar Power Lights Up Bus Stops

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

VICTORIA - Solar power is behind a British Columbia company's bid to light up the world's darkest bus stops.

Carmanah Technologies Inc. of Victoria says its solar-powered bus stop is a low cost, low maintenance innovation with a night visibility range of 1.6 kilometres.

The i-Stop bus stop, to be introduced next week at a public transit exposition in Las Vegas, virtually eliminates instances where bus drivers miss passengers because they can't see them at stops, said Art Aylesworth, Carmanah's chief executive officer.

Transit agencies across North America and London, England, have placed orders to test the product, he said.

The i-Stop uses high-intensity, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for its lighting features, including a flashing beacon to notify bus drivers a passenger is waiting, an illuminated bus schedule and a security light that keeps passengers from waiting in the dark.

"With no digging, wiring or electrical connections required, the i-Stop installs on most conventional stop sign posts in minutes," Aylesworth said. "It is maintenance-free for up to five years with zero operating costs, and it has a battery that will charge even on overcast days."

The solar stops will sell for about $1,000 each, he said.

Carmanah's solar-powered lights were originally developed to power marine navigation lights, now in use by the U.S. and Canadian coast guards.

Carmanah used its marine lighting experience to design bus stops that are vandal and weather proof, Aylesworth said.

"These polyurethane potted domes they are tough little devils," he said. "I might throw this across the parking lot just because it always gets a charge out of everybody, but you can't break these. We think we're very close to having it vandal proof now, but we'll learn more."

He said the LED capabilities are sparking advancements in the technology and renewable energy sectors. Aylesworth tries to remain calm when considering the potential i-Stop market.

"It's unbelievable. I'm afraid to start giving you numbers because I won't sleep," Aylesworth said.

"Here's some perspective, if we are successful in the city of London, and we are certainly the frontrunner and optimistically will be, that will be $18 million worth of sales over three years. That's 12,000 stops.

"North America has over a million stops. Europe has over a million stops and the rest of the world has probably collectively has a million stops."

Victoria ordered 10 i-Stops, said Chris Foord, Victoria transit spokesman.

The new technology provides a low-cost method of providing security and timely information for passengers, he said.

"Every transit system struggles with information at the bus stop," Foord said. "With this technology it gives another push for all of us to provide absolutely first-class information at the stop."