Guiding " and efficient " lights |

Guiding " and efficient " lights

David Bunker
Sierra Sun
Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunDave Gotschall holds a solar-powered runway light at the Truckee Tahoe Airport.

As dusk descends on the Truckee Tahoe Airport, the 500 points of blue light that have brought the airfield state recognition and international attention blink to life.

You wouldn’t think that runway lighting would be such a big deal, but these are no ordinary lights.

Powered by the sun and free of wires, the fixtures cost the airport $133,000 costs when they were installed two years ago. And as each day passes the money the airport doesn’t pay in utility bills is adding up.

“The installation costs would have been $1.2 million,” said airport Manager Dave Gotschall. “We did it for about 10 percent of the cost.”

The energy savings are what drew the attention of the state. The airport, along with East West Partners and the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, were recently honored as exceptional energy savers by California’s “Flex Your Power” campaign.

The airport estimates that it has saved 122,000 kilowatt hours of electricity every year by relying on the power of the sun.

And now aviation magazines, both national and international, have profiled Truckee Tahoe Airport’s innovative runway lights, and Truckee, which used to be alone in the use of solar taxiway lighting at a general aviation airport, is sure to be joined by others.

“We were the first [general aviation airport] in the nation and, really, the first in the world [to install the lighting],” Gotschall said.

As the lights prove easy to maintain and the energy and cost savings mount, Truckee Tahoe Airport is gaining the attention of other small airports that may have been excluded from installing the lighting because of the cost, said airport Assistant Manager Mike Scott.

“There are 18,000 airports in the country like us that can benefit from this,” Scott said, as he stood in the blue glow of one of the runway markers.

The lighting is now being tested by the Federal Aviation Administration to see if it can be used at larger airports across the nation.

“They’re doing a great job for us,” Scott said of the Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting. “That’s 500 lights that you are not powering all night.”

Truckee-based East West Partners was recognized for energy conservation at its Old Greenwood development. The state recognized the development company for exceeding California’s energy standards by 26 percent and saving 20,000 kwh of electricity and more than 50,000 gallons of water through their Old Greenwood Natural Resource Management Plan.

The 11,500-square-foot clubhouse at Old Greenwood features waterless urinals, water-efficient landscaping, a drip irrigation system fed by rainwater capture ponds, and uses recycled water to irrigate the golf course.

“This recognition is something we’re very proud of, and it lets us know we’re working in the right direction with how we design our buildings and run our businesses,” said Aaron Revere, East West Partners’ director of environmental initiatives, in a written statement.

Within the Truckee and North Lake Tahoe area, East West Partners developments and holdings include Old Greenwood, Gray’s Crossing, the Village at Northstar, the Northstar Highlands, Coyote Moon and Wild Goose Restaurant.

The school district, meanwhile, was applauded for its newest building ” Alder Creek Middle School. The new school uses geothermal heating and natural light to reduce energy costs and exceeds state energy requirements by more than 20 percent.

The winners were recognized in congratulatory newspaper ads that ran throughout California.

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