Wake Electric: No More Outages for LED Stoplights
The hazards of dark traffic signals are history, thanks to the recent efforts of a North Carolina electric cooperative.
Wake Electric has installed battery backups on the 20 traffic signals in its service area, a system that also uses smart grid technology to improve outage restoration times. The batteries will provide up to four hours of backup power for the LED traffic signals.
That chunk of time “gives crews notice that we have four hours to locate and repair the cause of an outage before we need to address the problem of traffic signals,” said Don Bowman, manager of engineering at Wake Electric, based in Wake Forest.
“It’s really a mess when [the traffic signals] go out. Traffic signals are a matter of public safety, so we need to respond to those outages as soon as possible,” said Bowman.
“We also feel an obligation of notifying local police to monitor and direct traffic in the area. Now, we can dispatch our crews smarter and public officials can have more time to mobilize if we know that we will be having an extended outage.”
While LED traffic signals are widespread throughout the U.S., only large cities have installed backup systems at key intersections. “Most rural towns have not,” said Bowman.
LED traffic signals use less energy than conventional signals—150 to 290 watts per intersection, compared with nearly 1,300 watts—making the project easier and cheaper to tackle.
“Before the Department of Transportation changed the traffic lights over to LEDs, it would have taken a whole cabinet of batteries to power the back-up system,” said Bowman. “Now, because of the efficiency and lower power draw of LED lights, it is a much more feasible project.”
Each traffic light will have two smart meters, one to notify the co-op of outages and the second to confirm that batteries are powering the lights. The second meter can also alert the co-op when the batteries need attention.
“It’s really a win-win situation for everyone,” said Bowman.
By Victoria A. Rocha | ECT Staff Writer
Reprinted from ECT.coop, The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association