Former Electricity Powerhouse Colorado Springs Looks to Solar Power
Nicknamed “Little London” by the English settlers of the mid-1800s, Colorado Springs is the largest city by area in the state of Colorado. Due south of Denver, it is in El Paso County, and is home to approximately 465,000 people, making it the second-largest city by population in the state. The city is at the foot of the famous Pikes Peak, where Katharine Lee Bates drew inspiration to write “America the Beautiful” on the summit.
Dubbed Olympic City USA, Colorado Springs is home to 24 national governing bodies for sports, including the US Olympic Committee and USA Hockey. The economy here is dominated by the defense industry, high-tech businesses, and tourism, and population growth continues as a result. The military installations here also make the city a frequent backdrop in popular culture, including Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Stargate SG-1, and the film The Prestige.
Solar Street Lighting in Colorado Springs
While a semi-arid landscape, Colorado Springs is known for Chinook winds in the winter; it is also one of the most active areas in the country for lightning strikes, which made Nicola Tesla choose Colorado Springs to build his lab and study electricity. Today, however, the city sees itself as an ideal location for alternative sources of power, aiming for 20% of the city’s energy needs met with renewable power sources by 2035.
But it hasn’t always been that way. In 2010, when the effects of the recession were felt across the country, Colorado Springs officials ended up shutting off one of every three street lights in an effort to save money. But an unintended result was that copper thieves had ample opportunity to steal the valuable wiring from the de-energized lights. The cost to repair these lights was exponential compared to the savings the city enjoyed by turning the lights off in the first place. While the economy has now recovered in Colorado Springs, there is still the threat of copper theft—and another option is available. By replacing their infrastructure with solar-powered commercial lighting—which does not require copper wiring—the city could avoid this issue and save money on their electricity bill at the same time.
It’s not just street lights that could benefit from solar power. The city manages 9,000 acres of parks and recreation complexes, including the Garden of the Gods—dubbed by some as the most beautiful place in the world—and the Manitou Incline trail. The 2014 Colorado Springs Park System Master Plan revealed inadequate lighting is one shortcoming to be addressed. Meanwhile, the Office of Sustainability, created in 2016, aims to reduce harmful environmental impacts on the natural area. A solution here is properly designed solar park lighting, which can provide the light the parks need without disrupting the natural landscape or increasing light pollution. This would allow the city to add light where none existed before, without the detrimental effects of poor lighting design.
Overall, the opportunities for solar outdoor lighting here are promising, and with community support, aren’t likely to slow down anytime soon.