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City Work Crew Converts Light Service To Solar
Solar lights pix.jpg
On a dark and dreary day this past week, a City of Riverbank public works crew concentrated on installing new equipment on a light pole on Patterson Road, near the Galaxy+ Theatres. On Tuesday, Feb. 12, between rainstorms, they were installing solar panel equipment on three of the poles in the area. Ric McGinnis/The News

Drivers on Patterson Road/Highway 108 in western Riverbank probably noticed a city Public Works crew high in the air in front of the Galaxy+ Luxury Theatres last week.

On Tuesday, Feb. 12 in between scattered showers that day, a three-man team of electricians were working on light poles there, between Galaxy and Cool Hand Luke’s restaurant, on the north side of the highway.

According to city Public Works Superintendent Michael Riddell, the crew was installing solar equipment to be used with a few of the street lights at that location.

He said the new equipment would allow Public Works to control how bright, how long the lights are illuminated and when they come on and turn off. And this control, he said, comes from an app that he has on his phone, as well as others in his department.

The best part, he said, is that the new equipment is no longer powered by a utility company, but by the solar panels on the individual poles. So eventually, they will pay for themselves.

In addition, he noted, his department will be able to use other, similar power poles in other parts of town. He said this current installation is kind of a trial to see how they work.

Riddell pointed out that, when citizens ask for a new street light somewhere in the older part of town, the city has to put in a request to PG&E. In turn, eventually, they send out an engineer, who will survey the current pole they have in place, determining if it will handle the weight and power necessary for a new light.

It has been difficult to predict to residents how long the process will take or whether it will be successful.

In addition, the city then has to pay PG&E for the work and the new light ... and the electricity it takes to run.

Now, he said, the city will be able put up its own poles, lights and solar equipment, where it has determined there is a need, and shortly have it pay for itself.