Feb. 3, 2020 - Solar-powered smart light poles, the first project in Hampton’s “Digital City Transformation” initiative, will debut this month at the Y.H. Thomas Neighborhood Park, 1300 Thomas St. The new poles use green technology to provide Wi-Fi access, charging ports, and enhanced security to the ball fields and a half-mile walking trail behind the neighborhood center. A special ribbon-cutting ceremony and demonstration of the technology will be held at the park on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at 4 p.m.
The city has installed fifteen 20-ft off-grid smart poles with built-in solar panels. Using LED lights and lithium batteries, the poles can store energy for up to eight days with no sunlight. The lights have “follow me” technology to illuminate the area where someone is walking, to save energy, and to reduce light pollution to the surrounding neighborhood. A security camera has also been installed to provide a live video feed to the police department.
The smart poles are part of a pilot program designed to reduce carbon footprint and energy cost, provide Wi-Fi access, and improve security. They will also increase neighborhood resiliency by continuing to produce light and charging power during electric outages. Locations being considered for future installations include downtown on Queens Way, around the Settlers Landing Road parking garage, and the Mellen Street bridge. Other cities using this technology include Miami, Santa Fe, N.M., and Lafayette, La.
The smart pole project stems from public safety concerns and the need to address dark areas where traffic pole lighting is insufficient. The project aligns with the Information Technology Department’s “Digital City Transformation” initiative, using Hampton’s next-generation network to develop the foundation for smart infrastructure projects. The smart poles, for example, have the ability to include sensors that monitor traffic and sea-level rise, two priorities of the Public Works Department.
Y.H. Thomas was chosen because of its lack of existing lighting and a shorter installation time. The technology can also be retrofitted onto existing poles.