Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Solar-powered crossing signals a first in North Carolina

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February 14, 2001

The North Carolina Department of Transportation Rail Division has installed the state’s first solar-powered highway-rail grade crossing warning system. Consisting of lights, bells, and gates, the system, designed and installed by C&S Signaling of Pewee Valley, Ky., is located on the Yadkin Valley Railroad in theStokes County town of Pinnacle on Surry Line Road.


Most crossing warning systems operate off battery power, withbatteries charged via commercial electricity. This system uses solar panels tocharge the batteries. “Usually, battery capacity generated from the solarpanels can accommodate a minimum of 48 to 72 hours of crossing signals and gateoperation for the number of daily trains expected,” said NCOT. “This comparesequally to crossing signals and gates using non-solar technology to generateelectricity. The solar array has a back-up generator for emergency use. Beyondthe use of the solar panels to charge the batteries and operate a couple oflow-draw electric items, such as an interior light, vent fan, etc., thecrossing signals and gates will operate like any other crossing automaticwarning system connected to the power grid. It also looks like any other signaland gate crossing warning system except for the mast-mounted solar panels atopthe crossing signal’s control panel.” 

“This is an outstanding opportunity to use renewable, cleanenergy,” said NCDOT Rail Division Director Pat Simmons. “While the crossingwill operate as effectively as any other to help keep motorists safe, we cantake pride in knowing that it’s also energy efficient.”


“We appreciate partnering with NCDOT and being the front runner atgoing green in this effort,” said Todd Burchette of the Yadkin Valley Railroad. 


The Rail Division said it “has plans for at least one other solarpanel signal and gate crossing and will continue to encourage the further useof this green technology.”

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