At the 2015 IESALC technology meeting in Denver, USA Avlite personnel, Tara Stewart, Jason Larrere and Jeffrey Trottier, discuss applications and advancements of solar aviation lighting technology. Tara Stewart covers the history and the advancements that have allowed solar to become a reliable compliant airfield lighting power source. Jason Larrere discusses applications and case studies, while Jeffrey Trottier covers adoption and closes with the necessary steps for mainstream adoption of solar airfield lighting technology.
Q&A from the presentation
Q1. What is the difference between compliant and certified?
Products that are compliant have been successfully tested by the manufacturer but not tested and certified by an independent third party testing laboratory. Without independent testing a product is only deemed compliant in the eyes of the manufacturer, not certified. End users should always request certification to insure the product purchased has been objectively tested to the applicable standard.
Q2. Why don’t the current FAA Advisory Circulars allow for permanent runway and taxiway lighting certification of solar technology?
The FAA Advisory Circular, AC 150/5345-46D Specifications for Runway and Taxiway Fixtures, specifies that all runway and taxiway lighting fixtures are required to have a very specific input power, either a constant current 6.6A (Mode 1) or constant voltage 120/240VAC (Mode 2) . Solar airfield lighting fixtures are supplied by a rechargeable battery with a low voltage DC output. The rechargeable batteries are replenished by the sun’s energy. The DC voltage is less than 30VDC making it safe to work with and easy to install/maintain. Since the Advisory Circular is specific and does not allow for other power sources, solar airfield lighting can only be certified as compliant to specific paragraphs in the Advisory Circular like photometric output, chromaticity, environmental requirements, etc. Without full certification, solar airfield lighting products can only be listed as L-863 AC 150/5345-50B Specification for Portable Runway and Taxiway Lights, therefore no permanent application certification is currently achievable.
Q3. What is EB76 and can a manufacturer certify to this advisory circular?
FAA Engineering Brief No. 76, Using Solar Power for Airport Obstruction Lighting, outlines the guidelines for solar power supply design for use with obstruction lighting. Since this is only a guideline, certification and listing are not available.
Q4. What are the advantages of solar over hardwired LED lighting?
Solar powered lighting requires no infrastructure such as constant current regulators, cable, transformers, base cans, ductwork or conduit. There are also no reoccurring power costs, since the sun provides the renewable energy to recharge the battery. The lights can be installed in hours, require minimal maintenance and are easy to troubleshoot. Unlike, hardwired systems, which can have several to many lights fail at a time (CCR Failure, Cable Cut, Mains Power Failure), each solar light is independent and no single light failure affects the remaining lighting.
Q5. What is the lifetime of solar lighting?
Life expectancy of solar products will vary between manufacturers, but typically the product life cycle is 12+ years. With long life, very little maintenance and no upfront infrastructure costs, solar aviation lighting provides for significant cost savings with no compromise in reliability.
Q6. How often do the batteries need to be replaced?
There are a number of factors that will influence the battery life, including environmental factors, depth of discharge, storage conditions and amount of use. If well maintained and treated as per manufacturer’s instructions, the typical life cycle would be approximately -5 years for Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) and 5-7 years for sealed led acid (SLA).
Q7. When mixing hardwired LED lighting and solar LED lighting are there any concerns?
Solar is ideal, as an addition or back-up to hardwired systems. Solar airfield lighting can easily interface with existing airfield lighting control systems and be used in new or updated areas of the airfield. In addition, solar airfield lighting can be placed on the airfield when hardwired lighting has failed or permanently installed as a back-up to hardwired lighting. Again, this solar lighting is interfaced to existing control systems for transparent control by ATC operators.
“It is a great benefit to our community to have this [Avlite’s helipad lighting system] installed and commissioned at CareFlight’s Toowoomba base. Avlite’s particular type of lighting lends itself to a lot of applications given that it’s easy to install, doesn’t require electricity as its solar powered and can be remotely controlled. It’s a fabulous technology, obviously a world leading technology and from my point of view, it’s great to see an Australian Manufacturing success story.“
-Cr Mike Williams
“For an aerodrome operator to provide equivalent night-use runway standards for the RFDS and other fixed-base users at around one-third of the cost of a traditional mains-powered runway and taxiway lighting system, there has to be greater recognised merit for this (solar-powered) alternative especially in a location like ours where it is sunny most days of the year.”
“Our industry appreciates the on-going support of this Australian owned and operated company whose solar powered airfield and helipad lighting systems assist in the improvement of safety for both fixed and rotary wing aeromedical flight crews and passengers around the country.”
“As the busiest Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) based in the State [of Queensland], the benefits [of Avlite’s helipad lighting] are many. Not only does it [the system] enhance the safety of our operations, it also helps us to continue to improve our level of service delivery to the community and to our customers.“
-Ashley van de Velde
“These lights [AV-70s] have been a great asset to many outback communities that previously we were not able to access 24/7.”
“Just to let you know the new airport floodlight has now been installed for several weeks and the medical staff and Power and Water staff [who look after the airport] agree it has made things much easier and safer for night-time medivacs. Your assistance with enabling us to have this basic but important infrastructure is much appreciated.”
“Since starting our distributorship with Avlite, we have gone from strength to strength with the great range of solar products and of course the fantastic support of the Avlite staff. It’s been a good year for us. May it continue.”
“Re: Avlite AV70 taxiway lights, are working really well. Thank you for your assistance in getting our ramp up and running.”
-Capt. US Air Force
“[In reference to more than 2,000 AV70 taxiway lights installed] Those Taxiway lights work great, we are not having any problems with those AV70’s. Thanks a lot.”
“The lights are installed and are operating beautifully.”
“[In reference to Avlite radio controlled obstruction lighting] They are really neat to watch come on, they come on instantly and are a great addition to our pilot training school. The lights are currently set on medium intensity as high intensity is very bright.”
“We did install all of the lights. We even used a few red lights as obstruction markers on top of 68 meter power line towers. I finally found a high quality camera and took some photos. I will send them to you as soon as I can download them. We submitted some additional light orders to our contracting office, so you can expect to receive a bit solicitation from them soon. The lights are working great and we appreciate the support.”
“[In reference to a visit to the Avlite production facilities] On arrival at Avlite I was greeted by sales manager Sharon Bedson, and was treated like a VIP. I was given a tour of the production line and had a close look, and an in-depth explanation of all the components of the Avlite system. The staff were fantastic and very helpful. It was truly fascinating and I now have a good story to tell Wanarn community members on my return. I was also shown the vast range of solar system lights and other products that they make.
I have recommended Avlite solar lighting systems to many local communities and Avlite will be my first stop shop if the community needs anything regarding solar power in the future. Well done, and thank you Avlite.”