Going "Green" with Wind & Solar Powered Stoplights

It's a new kind of stoplight in Lincoln, in fact researchers say it's the first in the country.

At 84th and Highway 2, it looks just like any other stoplight until you hear a wind turbine whirring and see a solar panel soaking in the sunlight.

Mo Zhou is a civil engineering graduate assistant researcher at UNL. She said, "We can supply our traffic signals by renewable power source so we don't need to get more power from the power grid, so it would reduce our traffic operation cost."

Each year the City of Lincoln spends $72,000 on supplying power to traffic lights, if implemented this "green" stoplight unit could cut down on that expense.

Valerie Lefler is the Program Coordinator for the Mid-America Transportation Center at UNL. She told 10/11, "It can save taxpayers money, it can save taxpayers the social benefit cost of vehicle accidents and vehicle fatalities due to unsignaled intersections and improve traffic operations."

The hybrid solar and wind unit cost $8,000 to install, but researchers say if implemented on the larger scale that cost would go down.

From data collected through three years of the study, about 30% of the energy to power the system comes from the wind.

Currently, researchers are studying the solar electricity generation of the system and will know more within the next few months.

The project is in year three of a four year study and is funded by a $1 million grant through the US Department of Transportation. Zhou and Lefler say the hybrid stoplight research project is the only one in the country.

Lefler said, "This is an innovative new concept, so some of the things we've done we've had to design, we've had to look at the battery source, and designing the technology that's used for this intersection, so literally in the very formative stages and when we give that report to the US DOT, we'll look at if this is economically viable,how many more intersections should we install."

Now it's just a matter of time to see if more are installed. Lefler said the timetable for that is dependent upon what the US DOT decides from the report.

For more information about the project you can contact Dr. Jerry Hudgins an electrical engineering professor jhudgins2@unl.edu or Dr. Anuj Sharma a civil engineering assistant professor asharma3@unl.edu at the Nebraska Transportation Center at UNL.