Solar lighting first of its kind in state

Richburg can boast what no other municipality in any county of the state can boast – solar lighting.

The solar light panels installed Nov. 12 at U.S. Interstate 77 exit 65 in Richburg, put Chester on the map as the only county in the state to use solar lighting on its roadways, officials say. Over a five-year period, numerous town, county and state officials were involved in this project proposed to increase safety and save lives.

“The project really started as a Greater Richburg Association project,” said Chester County Councilman Joe Branham.

The project, initiated in 2007 by the GRA sought ways to use solar lighting to make travel safer for motorists and pedestrians along S.C. Highway 9 and near the exit 65 intersection, said its President Tommy McMinn.

“We’d had several accidents in that corridor – some fatal,” McMinn said. “We had a lot of tourists, many elderly, who got off the Interstate and traveled in the wrong direction. With me being with the fire department, I saw all of that so I brought the idea to the GRA and said, ‘let’s put street lights in that area.’”

McMinn said initially Duke Energy was contacted and the GRA learned the cost for street lighting required a $99,000 down payment and $800 per month for service under a required 10-year contract. McMinn then suggested solar lighting instead, obtained quotes and an artist rendering of how the area would appear with this new form of lighting. Local officials sought funding for this project and with the help of the S.C. Department of Transportation, Chester County applied for and received a $250,000 federal grant which required a $50,000 match from the county, Branham said.

“The highway department took over the engineering part of the project and came up with the plans where to place these lights,” he said. “It took some time for all of this with delay after delay.”

Actually, it took three years for the grant to be approved and relinquished to the county. Once the grant was approved, the county enlisted aid from the state highway department to lay out plans for the project since the endeavor was considered an “enhancement,” according to SCDOT. Per the grant’s regulations, the project’s original design for street lighting was revised in favor of pedestrian lighting. Per SCDOT regulations, the “enhancement” grant required sidewalks, McMinn said. These were put in and the

Twelve solar lights were installed earlier this month along with two caution lights alerting drivers of pedestrians crossing the highway. As “the gateway” into Chester County, Richburg now makes that entrance safer for everyone.

By Denyse Clark, Staff Reporter with The News & Reporter