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News > Solar-powered crosswalk lights, sensors help base save energy
A new crosswalk at TInker Air Force Base, Okla., uses solar energy to activate warning lights. Dale Eaton, a machinist in the 548th Propulsion Maintenance Squadron, crosses where step-activated yellow pads turn on blinking ground lights that alert motorists to pedestrians. (U.S. Air Force photo/Margo Wright)
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Solar-powered crosswalk lights, sensors help base save energy

Posted 10/7/2010   Updated 10/7/2010 Email story   Print story


by Brandice J. Armstrong
Tinker Public Affairs

10/7/2010 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.  -- Let there be no doubt: Tinker is pro-energy conservation.

As Energy Awareness Month gets under way, base personnel are appreciating one of the most ingenious additions to the installation -- solar-powered crosswalk and light sensors. There are six sets on base with talks of adding at least one more.

"When we think about energy, most of the time we think about reducing demand, but you can't always do that. There are mission reasons and safety reasons for why we need to use more energy. So, then we turned to increasing the supply and how do we do that? We turn to renewable energy sources," said Britton Young, 72nd Air Base Wing Civil Engineering Directorate mechanical engineer. "This is one instance where we found we could do that. We kept people's safety in mind and energy savings."

Each of the solar-powered panels collects the sun's energy and uses it to operate the crosswalk's lights and sensors. The panels, which cost up to $25,000 to install, are set up at the north and east sides of Bldg. 3001, between the dorms and medical clinic on Arnold Avenue, and at the golf course. In the upcoming weeks, a system will be added on Air Depot Boulevard near the 3rd Combat Communications Group complex.

Had Tinker not purchased the solar-panel sensors, Randon Rieger, Tinker Support Services Joint Venture engineering team lead with 72nd ABW/CE, said base officials would have had to put in mid-block, push-button activated crosswalk signals. Costing in excess of $100,000 just to get power to the site, the crosswalk signals would have activated a traffic light, signaling cars to stop each time the button was pushed.

"But, the solar-panel batteries have not proven to require connection to an electrical service for back-up power," Mr. Rieger said. "We're using zero energy beyond solar energy, which is free, to power those lights.

"It's a win-win," Mr. Rieger said. "It saved us a lot of capital cost and definitely contributed in a positive way to safety and awareness; and we've been able to do it with zero non-renewable energy requirements."

Ms. Young agreed.

"We have always asked, 'We never want to affect the mission or safety, how can we save energy, but make those things better?'" she said. "Here we are helping safety, the mission and also not increasing our energy usage."

For more information or to suggest ways to save energy, e-mail energy@tinker.af.mil.

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