Olympia’s bus riders will soon wait in shelters lit by solar energy

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Olympia, Wash.’s, public transportation system already has made strides toward reducing its carbon impact by adding in electric car-charging ports, and both biodiesel and hybrid electric busses into its transport system. But on Jan. 11, it took another important step when Urban Solar Corp. announced that it reached an agreement with Intercity Transit of Olympia, to provide solar-powered bus shelters with light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

The shelters provide light at night to offer riders extra security and safety while they’re waiting for their bus. The stops feature a photovoltaic panel, high-efficiency LED lighting and electric storage via batteries, allowing the shelters to provide light without requiring additional grid tie-ins.

Intercity, as evidenced by its fleet of progressive busses, has had a long history with becoming more sustainable.

“We’re always looking at where there are opportunities with green technologies. Not only to do our work differently, but to do our work in a way that supports our riders and the public,” said Intercity spokesperson Meg Kester.

Kester said that the system has been working on a multi-year plan to upgrade its roughly 932 bus stops.

“Part of that is putting in shelters or at least benches [at stops],” she said. “A big part of it—in the rainy northwest climate, having shelters is a big thing. It’s my understanding that going with the solar lighting is less expensive to install and maintain than conventional wired shelters.”

Urban Solar President Jeff Peters said, “The first maintenance would be battery changes.” The batteries will need changing “every four to five years, the LEDs and solar [should work for] 15 to 20 years.”

For conventionally lit shelters, Intercity would have to do additional costly construction and wire the shelters to the grid, also adding on an electric bill. With Urban Solar’s PV-Shelter systems, there’s no electric bill and no need to connect them to the grid.

Initially, Intercity will construct 20 Urban Solar shelters, Kester said.

“It’s nice to do these things that are environmentally minded,” she said. “And it’s really nice when the cost of doing this is competitive, so that it becomes very feasible to do for a publicly funded agency.”

Peters said Urban Solar’s products are in Pheonix, Tempe, California and some other cities.

“There are a lot of trials going on,” he said. “We’re trying out as many as we can and as quickly as we can.”

Image courtesy of Urban Solar.