This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

July 31, 2002

Union Pacific Railroad to Use Solar-Powered LED Lights

Carmanah Technologies Corporation announced on July 22nd that it has received an order from Union Pacific Railroad for 350 of its blue-signal rail yard lanterns. Carmanah's lights combine energy-saving light-emitting diode (LED) lights with rechargeable batteries and small solar cells. Because of the low energy usage of the LED lights, the lanterns run reliably using solar cells encased in the lanterns themselves. The reliability of the blue-signal lanterns is critical, as they are used by railways to indicate that a train is being worked on and must remain stationary. Union Pacific will use the lantern at its North Platt, Nebraska, rail yard, which is the largest in North America. See the Carmanah press release, as well as the Carmanah product and technology descriptions.

LED lights have become popular in recent years because of their significant energy savings compared to standard incandescent lights. Their most popular application is in traffic signals, an example of which is a recent project in Portland, Oregon. The city replaced nearly all its red and green traffic signals last year, and financed the project through an innovative leasing agreement. The city is now saving nearly 5 million kilowatt-hours per year in electricity, an energy cost of about $335,000. The city also estimates a maintenance savings of $45,000 per year due to the longevity of the LED lights. See the Portland case study (PDF 680 KB). Download Acrobat Reader.

LED traffic lights have an additional benefit: as the California Energy Commission (CEC) noted back in May, the lights have a low enough energy use that it becomes feasible to provide them with battery backup power systems. The CEC had about $10 million in matching grants to help install such systems at critical intersections throughout the state, allowing the traffic signals to operate normally for two hours during power outages. After two hours, the signals will flash red for another two hours. The CEC expects to award the grants in August. See the CEC press release.