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Downtown Campus

Grid-free and lovin’ it

Sustainable parking-lot lights draw no power, but lots of attention

By David J. Hill

“The biggest thing we hear is, ‘What are they?’”
Mark McGovern (MUP ’06)

They’ve been called whirlygigs, cellular towers and whatchamacallits. In reality, they’re just a cluster of parking-lot lights, but they’ve been turning heads since they were installed on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) in 2013 in partnership with National Grid and CIR Electric.

“The biggest thing we hear is, ‘What are they?’” says Mark McGovern (MUP ’06), who leads BNMC’s green initiative. Each 40-foot light post includes a wind turbine, one or two solar panels and a lithium ion battery. Looks aside, the lights—developed by Brooklyn-based Lumi Solair—are unique in their combination of green technology and battery backup, which takes the lot entirely off the power grid.

Pat Whalen, BNMC’s chief operating officer, explains that most solar and wind efforts are still somehow tied to the grid. “[These] prove that, at least on a small scale, we can use solar and wind without building a redundant generation source to back it up,” he says.