Jan 152011
 

UGE’s Sanya streetlights

The UGE Sanya could take some business away from utilities

Urban Green Energy — a New York City startup that designs and manufactures small wind turbines — has released and installed the first of its new, “hybrid” or wind- and solar-powered streetlights.

Designed for primary use in parking lots or over highways, UGE’s Sanya streetlights include a standard setup of the company’s 600 W Eddy wind turbines, along with a steel tower or pole, solar panels, lead acid batteries of the variety used in many cars, controls and light emitting diodes (LEDs) made by suppliers from Asia and the U.S. They can store up to 5 days of power, and can be customized to cast a particular color of light according to the product’s official webpage.

The UGE Sanya could take some business away from utilities by generating power from off-the-grid renewables for use in the pervasive, on-all-night streetlights. In many U.S. markets today, electric companies are the ones who actually install, maintain and power communities’ residential streetlights. This traditional business model has caused problems recently for various municipalities and utilities that serve them.

In Fayetteville, North Carolina (as reported by Andrew Barksdale for The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.) Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN) is threatening to turn the streetlights off, unless the town pays a bill over $100,000 there, or gives PE permission to charge monthly fees to customers it serves in the area.

It’s even worse in Lawrence, Kansas (as reported by Chad Lawhorn for the Lawrence Journal World & News). The city’s auditor, Michael Eglinski, believes the power company in charge of streetlights there, Westar Energy, is overcharging Lawrence for electricity it provides, failing to meter precisely, and worse is using woefully inefficient bulbs deliberately to boost sales.

Consumers can’t turn streetlights owned by utilities on or off, nor can they swap out old bulbs for highly efficient ones. The arrangement doesn’t feel fair to every resident. Utilities’ sympathizers, on the other hand, point out that they are responsible for things like repairing street lamps should a tree branch or car accident take one out, and incur other costs to keep cities safely lit.

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