Only one street light is functioning in Weymouth Township in the aftermath of Saturday’s storm.
Howard Burrows erected the experimental solar and wind-powered light pole — which he invented in a friend’s garage — on Friday at Viking Mold and Tool in the Dorothy section of the township.
But after a night of intense lightning, rain and wind left Burrows’ Mays Landing home in the dark, the 54-year-old inventor didn’t hold out much hope for its survival when he came back early the next morning.
“I came out here to pick up up the pieces,” he said. “I figured that would be all that’s left.”
Instead, Burrows found the light still shining through the early morning darkness, the only functioning street light for miles.
“It took an hour to make that 7-minute drive because of the chaos on the roads,” he said. “The light was like a beacon in the night, lighting the whole field.”
The battery he had connected to the light’s 100-watt generator was fully charged, having endured hurricane-force winds that had been sustained for at least an hour. Typically, the pole works off a combination 50-watt solar panel and a wind turbine that will spin on at least a 5 or 6 mph wind.
“With 80 mph winds, it was probably so hot it was cooking,” he said.
The light pole can operate as long as seven days without sunlight or wind using stored power alone, Burrows said. He received a patent on the design earlier this year.
Burrows and his business partner and fiancee, Kathy Edwards, run Pollution Solutions Renewable Energy LLC, and have been demonstrating the light poles to local municipalities as a cost-effective alternative to conventional street lights that run off the electric grid. Two of their other prototypes weathered the storm in Egg Harbor Township, erected through a grant from the South Jersey Economic Development District.
“It was incredible that we were responsible for the only light for miles,” said Edwards, 55. “A lot of towns would have had working street lights if they had these.”
The pair recently teamed with Jim Sullivan, the owner of Viking Mold, and plan to begin manufacturing the lights at his Dorothy workshop in a few months. The shop, which typically makes molds for bottles for eye drops and lemon juice, is being retooled to produce the metal poles.
“The firehouse down the road was completely dark, but we had power here,” said Sullivan. He even ran a line from the battery into the shop to charge a cellphone and laptop.
“I’d like to hire some people and see how far we can go with this technology,” he added. “We want to start producing as many of these as we can.”
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