Lamar Advertising Co. will start retrofitting all billboards across Florida with wind and solar energy systems. The company intends to complete the operation by 2012 at the cost of about $12.5 million — the Department of Energy will provide $2.5 million while the remaining cost will be borne by Lamar.
The project will cover 1,370 billboards across eight markets throughout Florida with most of the billboards located along interstates and at thoroughfares. Not only will the billboards be powered by wind and solar energy systems, they will also function as small power generating hubs feeding the surplus electricity to the grid. The combined capacity of the billboard energy systems will be about 1 MW.
Elaborating the environmental and economic advantages of such systems vice president of operations at Lamar, Robert B. Switzer said that,
Over the 20- to 25-year life span of the billboards converted to renewable energy, we will return an untold amount of renewable, emission-free energy to the power grid while demonstrating in a very graphic manner to the public the payoff that comes with renewable energy. In the long run, this will mean significant savings for Lamar. The lifespan of these systems allows them to be amortized, giving us a very logical business rationale for incorporating systems such as these on a widespread basis.
Opportunity for huge savings
Any machine or service operating continuously for long periods of time consumes tremendous amount of electricity and even a slight improvement in its energy efficiency can result in significant savings in energy, resources and money. Traffic lights and billboards are used non-stop for several hours drawing thousands of units of electricity from the grid. By incorporating wind and solar energy systems into their designs would save those units of electricity.
Solar/wind-powered billboards caught attention when the Japanese company Ricoh decided to install wind turbines and solar panels to power its Times Square billboard.
WePower, a California-based sustainable energy solutions company, estimated that if all of the 500,000 billboards along the interstates were to switch to wind energy generating power at a wind speed of 10 miles per hour, they would generate 16.8 billion kWh of electricity. It would be enough to power 1.5 million homes in annually and would prevent 5.3 million tonnes of carbon emissions from entering into the atmosphere.
WePower, along with PacWind, coined the term ‘windvertising’ which aims at providing companies with solutions to reduce their carbon footprints by installing small wind energy systems to power their billboards. Installing wind or solar energy systems on billboards would also be an advertisement for small-scale renewable energy solutions. Such systems would prove helpful in making people realize the reliability, utility and advantages of such systems which could potentially lead to opening up of the domestic market for such clean energy systems.
Billboards, traffic lights and street lights are increasingly being powered by clean energy sources both in the developed and developing countries. These systems although use a fraction of the power demand of domestic and industrial customers but seem highly energy-intensive during shortage of power, especially in developing and poor countries. Plans have been floated in the developing countries to reduce power usage of such services.
Retrofitting these systems with clean energy technologies seems to be a simple solution to the problem of mismatch between supply and demand of electricity. Although the initial costs are high but there is no cost of fuel and added environmental benefits. Projects like the one launched by Lamar could very well be the stepping stones to the proliferation of small-scale renewable energy technologies into the domestic and industrial market.
Source: Market Watch
The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.
Mridul Chadha currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.