Long-term savings and floodplain concerns pushed Rapid City police officer Ryan Phillips toward solar power for his bike path project.
Fifty-eight solar lights now line a section of the Leonard "Swanny" Swanson Memorial Pathway, providing a bright corridor for walkers and cyclists between Memorial and Roosevelt parks.
"The initial cost is more, but it’s a savings in the long run," said Phillips, who had to come up with a funding source for his crime-deterring idea.
Solar power seemed like the best route for the project, which cost about $300,000 and was paid for by private donations, public funding and in-kind contributions, he said.
On top of cutting out a monthly electric bill, the solar lights' only cost is maintenance, which is largely replacing the lights' batteries every five to seven years, according to Brett Anderson, a sales manager for Greenshine New Energy, the company that built the lights.
"These are strictly off grid. You don’t have to run any trenching or any wiring," said Anderson, whose Irvine, Calif.-based company has had its lights installed in projects throughout the country as well as internationally. "There is no electrical box."
Although solar energy can be harnessed on cloudy days, the bike path lights have a reservoir that can store enough power to cover seven to 10 days, Anderson said. So the lights will still come on even after a particularly dark day, he said.
"You don’t have to worry about them," Anderson said. "Even in the worst situation, they would just dim a little bit."