Solar-powered Lights at General Aviation Airports

Solar technology has made major advancements over the years and presents an opportunity for airports to produce on-site electricity and to reduce long-term energy costs. Solar energy is a renewable energy source that contributes to goals of sustainability and fewer greenhouse gases. Photovoltaic (PV) lighting systems collect radiated energy from the sun and covert it to electricity that can be used to charge batteries. These batteries can be used to power light fixtures. The energy production of the PV lighting systems is dependent on system type, orientation, and the amount of the sun’s energy that reaches the earth’s surface. The latitude/longitude of installation site locations determines the maximum sun hours per day available. Winter average sun hours generally govern system design requirements and capabilities

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Airport Safety and Standards (AAS) issued a Request for Research Memorandum to the FAA Airport Technology Research and Development Branch (ATRD) at the Williams J. Hughes Technical Center to conduct research to evaluate Solar Lighting Systems at five GA airports in diverse geographic regions based on various solar insolation, ambient temperature range, and snowfall. 

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The five regions these lights will be installed at are Cape May, NJ (Initial Prototype Installation), Central Upstate New York, Pacific Northwest (Washington State), Central/Southern Arizona, and Central Oklahoma. A single GA airport in each region will be selected based off a of Site Survey process which would inquire the GA airports willingness to support the project, physical layout of available space to support equipment, clearance of proposed test site from runways and taxiway obstacle free areas, available Electrical power and internet network connection, and Security for installed equipment. 

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At each GA airport, a total of 46 Airfield components will be installed including L-861 Runway Edge/Threshold Lights, L-861T Taxiway Edge Lights, L-810 Obstruction Lights, Elevated, Runway Guard Lights, Wind Cones, and Airfield Guidance Signs. All of the solar lights are controlled by a Pilot Radio and are subjected to 15 to 20 activations a night at varying lighting intensities.

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Contact Project Lead: Ryan King, Airport R&D

Last Update: 06/24/2021