Solar-Powered Light Built in BC Takes Flight

Friday, June 2, 2006

Carmanah Technologies has launched a new solar-powered LED airfield light that it feels will illuminate the way to the high altitudes of the aviation market.

Art Aylesworth, CEO of the Victoria-based solar-power company, said the A704-5 - the company's first airfield light to include wireless control - represents a breakthrough point in Carmanah's pursuit of the lucrative airport market.

"It's quite pivotal for us," he said. "This is the first second-generation product for us in this area. In the beginning, they were just marine lights re-purposed.

"Our `aviation` customers liked our product, but they wanted the features they had with the `traditional` systems. Until we proved the technology was going to be welcome, we couldn't invest in all that research and development."

Carmanah also is an international player in solar-power systems and equipment and LED-illuminated signage. Besides airfields, the company provides solar-power lighting systems to the marine and roadworks industries.

Its self-contained products can be seen readily in and around Greater Vancouver. There are about 200 solar-illuminated bus shelters using its patented technology in Vancouver, while Vancouver International Airport uses Carmanah's aviation lights for runway construction projects. As well, the Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement Project is using the company's solar-powered flashing roadway beacons.

Aylesworth said the A704-5 has many improvements, such as retooled optics that are designed for aviation and feature greater visibility. But the most important improvement is full wireless control - just like the traditional technology Carmanah's lights replace, said Aylesworth.

"Previously, we would have a light that would come on when it got dark, then we gave it an on-off switch," he said. "Now it is fully programmable from the tower so you have light only when it's needed."

Aylesworth said the primary markets for the device are the military, which often requires fast deployment, secondary airports that are not lit or not fully lit, and international airports, which may install the Carmanah product as backups for existing wired runway lights.

The publicly traded company has sold 215 of the A704-5 already at about $2,495 US each. Carmanah, which has about 250,000 product installations worldwide, brought in revenues of about $7.5 million in aviation markets in 2005.

Aylesworth said the unit's cost is greater than a traditional airfield light typically around $300 US - but the differential is offset after costs for trenching, wiring and installation are added in.

Carmanah employs 157 in Victoria, its research and development centre, and 230 worldwide.

jjamieson@png.canwest.com