Solar lights continue to shine in northwest Baghdad, Abu Ghraib
July 20, 2009
BAGHDAD - Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers took a new concept in illuminating the streets of northwest Baghdad and Abu Ghraib and improved that concept with even newer technology.
Although solar-powered lights were present before the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, MND-B arrived in Baghdad to support Iraqi Security Forces through partnership, the leadership felt there were not enough lights and individual lights did not produce enough illumination.
"We were not happy with the quality of solar lights when we arrived," said Bristol, Conn. native, Maj. Andrew Attar, Joint Project Management officer, 2nd HBCT. "The lamps were low-pressure sodium and the light produced was dim yellow, yielding little visibility. Plus, the parts being imported were of low quality and malfunctioned frequently."
After much research the brigade decided to make the switch to longer-lasting parts and a newer generation of lamps that produce more light.
"We came across induction lamps; they are more efficient than low-pressure sodium and produce bright, white light with great visibility," said Attar. "You can literally see several hundred meters down a road at night, with almost day light clarity."
The brigade informed the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity of the new technology and Attar said the ministry was very excited about the new technology, which can survive the elements of nature for long periods of time while alleviating the stress of the national power grid.
After recent sand storms the lights still worked when other lights did not.
Although they can weather the storms, Attar said it is important that the panels and light parts are cleaned regularly.
"The solar panels have a guaranteed life of 20 years and the batteries have a lifecycle of five to eight years depending on how clean the panels are kept," said Attar. "If the panels remain heavily covered with sand for long periods of time, this will shorten the lifespan of the batteries."
Without the lights, the business hours on the streets are also shorter.
"As we expanded the emplacement of the lights they became a safety measure along main roadways and markets, allowing businesses to stay open later," said 1st Lt. Thomas Wilson, a native of LeClaire, Iowa, 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd HBCT. "They have invigorated the local economy and allowed people safer areas to socialize and be active during the cool nights."
While the lights help stimulate the local economy, the original intent was to suppress insurgent activity.
"The light project was initiated to provide security and safety throughout southern Ghazaliyah in an effort to make the area inhospitable to insurgent forces. Our intent was to light the main traffic routes and market areas in order to brighten the dark avenues of approach and provide areas where the community could spend time outside shopping or socializing during the hours past sundown," said Wilson. "Our plan was to create a safe environment for the people to be out on the streets and in turn they would be more likely to reject the use of the roadways at night time hours by the insurgents."
As the scheduled year-long deployment comes closer to an end for the Dagger Brigade, Attar said he was glad the Ministry of Electricity was able to work with the brigade to install the lights in order to benefit the people.
"Solar street lights are important to our efforts here because when they're done right with the right technology, they make the streets safer at night," Attar said. "These lights help bring about irreversible momentum of positive, peaceful change to Baghdad."