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Las_Cruces banking on renewable energy

LAS CRUCES — Las Cruces businesses and the city itself are turning to solar power, not only to offset the cost of buying electricity, but also as a way to provide stand-alone units to power electronic signs without having to run utility lines.

From street lights to pedestrian signs and billboards to traffic direction signs, much of the illumination you see at night is stored solar energy from the day.

“That’s fairly common, especially for new billboards,” said Mellow Honek, owner of Sunspot Solar Energy Systems in Las Cruces. “It saves the expense of running electricity.”

Honek said street lighting or parking lot lighting is becoming solar on a more regular basis as technology improves. It is most common on new construction where systems can be installed as the building and parking lots go up.

“Mainly where you’ll see solar-power lights in parking lots is going to be in new construction, because you have eliminated the need to run power out to those lights,” he said. “You’ve eliminated a pretty significant infrastructure cost.”

With solar and battery systems that are not hooked up to the electrical grid, solar panels and batteries need to be able to draw and store enough energy to offset the occasional days without sun. Even then, the stand-alone systems are not fail-proof.

“Systems need to be engineered to be reliable and take into account the environment where it’s installed,” Honek said. “Panels and batteries need to be larger than needed to withstand a couple of cloudy days. It is possible that you can have a situation where there is no light powering that billboard for a day because there were too many cloudy days.”

Read full story at Las Crusces Sun