March 18, 2004 – A sunset lighting ceremony was held on the St. Croix campus of the University of the Virgin Islands on Wednesday evening. A total of 66 solar light fixtures placed strategically around the 136-acre campus were activated for the first time.
These solar-powered lights will enhance the security and safety to residents and visitors who utilize the facilities of the only institution of higher learning on St. Croix.
"This is the largest installation of solar lighting in an academic institution across the United States," boasted Victor Somme III, Director of the V.I. Energy Office. According to Somme, the partnership between these government agencies "furthers the mission of the V.I. Energy Office as we attempt to champion the cause of energy efficiently and the proliferation of renewable energy in the territory."
According to Jennifer Jackson, St. Croix campus Chancellor, the project was the vision of UVI's Business and Facilities Services Director Peter Abrahams. Abrahams then worked closely with Victor Somme of the V.I. Energy Office and Onaje Jackson, president of Sustainable Systems & Designs and designer of the project's feasibility study, to bring the project to completion.
Jackson recalled the days of her youth growing up without electric lights. "Now electricity is something we are accustomed to," said Jackson. Jackson noted the University was concerned with the escalating cost of electricity coupled with the steady decline of government funding to the institution.
The Governor's 2004 budget reduced government appropriations to UVI for fiscal year 2004 by $2,255,656. (See UVI scrambles to close funding gap.)
The self-contained lighting system consists of a vandal-proof lighting fixture, solar panels with vandal resistant aluminum backing, and a vented battery box. These are affixed to an aluminum arm which is mounted to a pole planted in the ground, in a manner similar to traditional streetlights. The poles are designed to withstand winds of up to 150 mph, said Abrahams. Because the fixtures are not connected to each other with electrical wires, they can be taken up and replanted at another location to keep up with any futures needs of the university.
The lighting will be 'free' after two years, said Abrahams. "They are guaranteed for 30 years and the payback time is two years, so the university will enjoy at least 28 years of free lighting." Light bulbs will be changed every five years.
UVI is continuing its commitment to renewable energy and is presently gathering data that will lead to the installation of a device that will generate wind energy for the campus. "An anonometer, a device that records wind speed, is presently calculating wind speeds to determine the location of a wind energy generator," Jackson said.
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