Solar Lights Save a Community $75,000
Turtle Rock, a small sub-community in the larger development known as Palmer Ranch, may be the first community in the United States to adopt solar technology for street light cost
its street lights.
Solar street lighting has recently turned up in some far-flung and unlikely places, most notably Tanzania, Dubai, Afghanistan and Nigeria, but Turtle Rock is, as far as we know, the first place in Florida (and the first place in the U.S.) to use it extensively.
Palmer Ranch, Sarasota’s largest master-planned community, covers 10,000 acres and consists of eight communities, of which Turtle Rock is one. The actual number of street lights in Turtle Rock is 175.
This year, the community of retirees and young families was facing a $75,000 bill for its natural-gas street lighting. A switch of some kind was inevitable. Solar street lighting may have come as something of a surprise to a few residents, but once the solar investment tax credit ($60,000) was applied, costs came down significantly and opposition faded.
Bob Knickerbocker, who sits on Turtle Rock’s homeowner’s association board, calls it a “green” first that is saving residents a lot of money, which makes everybody happy in these lean times.
More important, solar street lighting is relatively maintenance free. A pole supports a photovoltaic (PV) panel, and above that is a battery. At the end of the day, energy stored in the battery from the PV panel lights an LED (light-emitting diode) bulb. The ones in Turtle Rock are rated at 7 watts, but LED lighting is more direct, so the actual illumination is about twice what the gaslights were producing. Most important, LED bulbs last about 25,000 hours, as compared to 1,200 for a standard 100-watt incandescent bulb. At 10 hours per night, this is 7 years between bulb changes.
The final cost? About $120,000, but the new lights also give off zero carbon emissions, which means Turtle Rock is reducing its emissions footprint by about 420 tons. This is equivalent to taking about 70 cars off the road.