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UB students to help solve solar mystery on Medical Campus

Student engineers from the University at Buffalo will soon help troubleshoot a solar mystery on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Why did parking lot lights powered by wind and sun stop working?

Four years ago, the nonprofit organization that coordinates infrastructure and other services on the Medical Campus installed new lights in one of its parking lots on Ellicott Street that could run entirely on wind and solar power.

The enhanced solar- and wind-powered lighting system was touted by the nonprofit Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc. as energy friendly. The hope was to run the lights entirely off the electric grid.

Then, they started to flicker.

The lights worked for a while, but gradually stopped functioning properly. Their illumination dimmed in the large surface parking lot at 589 Ellicott St. bordering North Oak and Goodrich streets.

Officials from BNMC have been working on the problem to figure out what's going on and have contacted the University at Buffalo School of Engineering to help troubleshoot the problem.

BNMC President and CEO Matt Enstice and Communications Director Kari Root Bonaro say engineering students will study the problem to see what can be done.

The new galvanized steel light poles with energy efficient LED lamps replaced older, wooden light poles in the parking lot. They have wind turbines and photovoltaic panels, as well as lithium ion battery storage.

In the interim, above-ground wires have been  installed to connect the network of light poles together throughout the parking lot.

Bonaro touted the lighting enhancements Thursday to a tour group from Explore Buffalo as she presented an overview of the campus.

"We like to try new things," said Bonaro, noting the concept was modeled after similar light standards in Brooklyn.

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