The demand for solar power has increased in Central Texas for the past years with cities and government agencies using it more for traffic signs.
The Texas Department of Transportation, which has been involved with that initiative for 20 years, has some solar-powered comparative travel times signs, portable changeable message boards on interstate 35. In addition, they have 40 solar-powered school zone flashers in Waco.
TXDOT Spokesman for the Waco District Ken Roberts said this technology is more efficient.
"It allows us much more flexibility if we have to employ signs that would require power in a temporary or semi-permanent basis,” Roberts said.
According to Roberts, solar-powered signs cost more for installation compared to the signs powered that use electricity with a battery backup is more expensive. However, he said the costs savings are seen quickly due to not having additional power costs.
"There is going to be a cost-savings considering not power is being used externally as opposed to what's generated by the sun,” Roberts said.
In our area, cities such as Waco, started installing solar-powered school zone flashers three years ago. Last year, the city added solar-powered stop signs downtown and near the Baylor University campus. The city anticipates adding two more school zone flashers in the near future.
The City of Temple has also incorporated solar-powered signs, including stop signs, stop ahead signs and school zone flashers. Those type of stop signs started being used last year, according to the city.
As more cities start using more solar power, more students are interested in pursuing a career in solar energy technology. The enrollment of the program at the Texas State Technical College in Waco that started more than seven years ago has increased by 40 percent.
"There is a demand large for people in the solar industry. We are seeing a lot of people putting more solar power, a lot of utilities, adding solar components to their power generation capacity,” TSTC Solar Energy Technology Instructor Hugh Whitted said.
Currently, there are 35 students who are part of the program.
According to Whitted, students who graduate from the Solar Technology Program, will be able to evaluate homes with the potential ability to have solar systems. In addition, they will be able to design them and install them.
TSTC also offers another program that includes solar technology called Triple Crown, which includes a Solar associates degree, Energy Efficiency Specialist certificate and Electrical Construction Certificate.
Lewis Marshall who is part of the program said he joined it because of his interest in environmentalism.
"My favorite part would be creating electricity from sunlight, you don't need the utility or the process that that involves, you just take it out in the sunlight and we can harness the sunlight for heat or electricity,” Marshall said.
He said the boom of the solar energy industry and his current education make him feel hopeful about his options upon graduation.
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