• Backup Power Options For Digital Billboards

    Insider has a regular reader who works as a Permits Coordinator for the Department of Transportation in a western state.  He posed us the following question:

    In transportation, over the last 20 years, the majority of traffic signals in our area have transitioned to LED. During this transition, they have become more and more efficient leading to the installation of uninterruptible power supplies being installed at important intersections by some jurisdictions.
    My question is (understanding the order of magnitude in power requirements between billboards and traffic signal requirements must be quite high) is there a possibility to do this with LED billboards using battery/solar?
    In the event of a natural disaster, the digital board could enhance public safety by displaying critical information.
    To get an answer to this question we reached out to Kevin Conlin of Autonomous Power.
    This is an excellent question and  to illustrate my answer I’d like to compare the power consumption of a typical solar system to a digital board.

    I’m not a digital expert, so I spoke to Matt Moates, with Formetco, an established digital supplier.  He estimated a typical 14’ x 48’ digital board consumes about 2500 Kwh per month, or an average of 83Kwh per day. A typical 14’ x 48’ solar board, running 6 lights for 6 hours per night, uses approx. 2Kwh per day. So, a digital board consumes 40X the daily power of a solar billboard.

    Therefore, a solar/battery system is NOT a good candidate to back up a digital board, as the power consumption is simply too great.

    In addition, the batteries must be replaced every 5-7 years, at significant expense. Typical system cost would be close to $10K, with another $5K in periodic battery replacement costs.

    A simpler, more reliable and less expensive solution would be a standard 5-8Kwh backup generator typically used for residential home backup power systems, powered by propane. The system comes on automatically, includes an automatic disconnect switch, and can run indefinitely in the event of an extended outage or disaster. Propane fuel does not have the aging or degradation characteristics of liquid fuels like gasoline and diesel. A typical system, including propane tanks, and “hardened” against theft and vandalism, will be $5 – 6K.

    Conclusion: A basic residential backup generator is the best solution.

    Thanks for the question and thanks to Kevin and Matt for the response. If you have a question for Insider you can let us know by filling out the comment box below.

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    One Comment

    1. That was an important doubt which you cleared here. Any person with little or no knowledge about digital displays can probably raise this.
      This will be helpful to others