When and How to Invest in Right-Sized Solar Panels

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A key factor when customizing transportation technology is deciding whether the system will be AC or solar powered. The term "solar" may suggest an option that fits only considerably sunny areas such as the southwest, but this green energy alternative can greatly benefit communities nationwide.

Aside from having significant environmental benefits, solar power can also be more cost-effective and convenient due to it not needing to be connected to an AC power grid through methods, such as trenching, tapping or metering.

For example, Laura Studee, Principal of the Sheboygan Leadership Academy, selected solar power for her school’s TAPCO Rectangular Rapid-Flashing Beacon (RRFB) Pedestrian Crosswalk System because solar power was low maintenance and “seemed like the perfect solution that would hopefully work in perpetuity.” After a smooth installation, the school saw overwhelming positive feedback that left them pleased with their investment.


Solar panels also come in a variety of sizes to fit the energy needs and weather conditions of various locations, with the option to install larger panels in sunnier spots if shading is sporadic. Companies such as TAPCO offer solar panels with either Top-of-Pole Self-Contained Control Cabinets for quick installation, or solar panels with compact control cabinets conveniently located on their pole.  

There are several steps that can be taken to first determine that solar power is the best solution for a location, and then decide the correct size solar panels to optimize your investment.  

When to Consider Solar

  • The installation location is away from an AC power grid
  • The costs of connecting to an AC power grid are prohibitive
  • Long-term power usage is a concern due to cost or the environment

When to Consider AC

  • The location tends to have lower light levels due to tree shading, tall buildings, etc. or there are multiple high-power devices and low solar irradiance
  • An AC power grid is readily available

Finding the Right Size Solar Panel

Many factors determine what the best size for a solar panel is, particularly the power needs of the system and the installation location. Follow these steps to get started:

        1. Assess Your Larger Location and Solar Factors.

Critical solar factors, such as direct normal irradiance and global horizontal irradiance, vary depending on system location. A system installed in Seattle, Washington, for example, will require larger solar panels than a system installed in Phoenix, Arizona.


        2. Assess Your Specific Location Needs.

The specific shading of the area where your system is installed will determine the exact bundle of solar panels required, with them possibly needing to be clustered where there is more consistent sunlight.

        3. Request a Quote.

Get a quote on the solar-powered traffic safety systems that interest you and talk to a salesperson about your goals. Then, you will have the information needed to make the best, most-informed traffic safety decision possible, including if solar power is the right fit.

Choosing solar power benefits not only your organization but has long-lasting environmental impacts as a green energy source. From being cost-effective to the convenience of installation, solar power is a high-quality power option when customizing your traffic safety solutions.


Robert Kurka

TAPCO | Product Manager

With over a decade in business development, marketing and product management, Robert strives to improve transportation safety through innovation.

He is a pedestrian safety solutions expert who especially enjoys working with the TAPCO family to develop lifesaving products and solutions, such as the SafeWalk® Crosswalk Illuminator and the VizMark™ Pavement Marking Enhancement.

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