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Solar Lights Provide Safety and Revenue

Adopt-a-Watt brings solar-powered lights to bus stops.

A student is illuminated by a prototype of a solar-powered school bus stop safety light in Taylor, Michigan.

Students in the Taylor (Mich.) School District waiting for school buses in the early morning hours will soon see the light—the solar-powered light, that is, illuminating their bus stop. Through a new program sponsored by Adopt-a-Watt and approved by the Taylor school board over the summer, solar-powered lights will soon be installed at 50 locations around the city. Not only will they enhance the safety of waiting students, but they will also generate revenue for the city and the school district.

Adopt-a-Watt is an initiative patterned after the federal Adopt-a-Highway program. A company or nonprofit pays an annual fee and in return is listed as the sponsor of a solar panel, which either powers a specific light or contributes to the electricity grid. Unlike with the main Adopt-a-Watt program, in which organizations bid on the chance to sponsor a site, the new School Bus Stop Safety Light program will assess a flat fee of $2,000 per year.

According to Thomas Wither, Adopt-a-Watt’s founder and principal, this fee will cover all costs to install and maintain the lights for one year, with a little bit left over. Over the next 19 years, however, the sponsorships will generate a great deal of revenue. For 50 lights, Wither estimates the net will be $1,454,000, to be divided equally between the city and the school district.

All revenue from the program must be directed to reducing the use of fossil fuels, Adopt-a-Watt’s primary goal. Wither sees great potential here for districts. “Schools desperately want to become more green, but they don’t have the funds,” he says. For every 10 bus stop lights, he explains, “there would be enough revenue generated to fund a 20-kilowatt solar-power system financed over a 10-year period.”

Adopt-a-Watt hopes to have all lights installed by the end of the year.