Energy-cost 'savings' from solar bus shelters would take 33 years to make taxpayers whole

The shelters, however, have only a 20-year lifespan

LAS VEGAS — Earlier this year, officials from the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada touted savings generated by new solar-power bus shelters.

It turns out, however, that a shelter’s lifespan is significantly less than what would be required to repay taxpayers’ investment.

A press release from RTC General Manager Jacob Snow boasted that the “new transit shelters feature energy-saving LED lighting and solar panels that enable the shelters to power their own illumination without being connected to the local power grid.”

“As a result,” stated Snow, “these 150 new bus shelters are estimated to save taxpayers about $54,000 a year in energy costs.”

Given that rate of savings and the total $1.8 million federal taxpayer investment, it would take at least 33 years for taxpayers to recoup their investment.

However, according to the RTC — which responded to a Nevada Journal inquiry — the shelters have an estimated lifespan of only 20 years.

The RTC’s solar-powered bus-shelter project is being funded by a grant from the Federal Transit Administration. According to the Southern Nevada agency, the FTA grants “must be allocated to transit enhancement projects such as transit shelters.”

Currently, 100 of the shelters scheduled have been installed, with another 50 awaiting permits from Clark County and scheduled for 2013.

All 150 shelters, according to the RTC’s March press release, were originally projected to be completed by Dec. 31.

The RTC is currently drawing up plans for another 150 solar-powered shelters, as a “Phase III” of its project. No timetable, however, has yet been announced for Phase III.

The $1.8 million Federal Transit Administration grant is distinct from the two $68 million Recovery Act, or “stimulus,” grants the RTC has received since 2009.

The two Recovery Act grants supported construction of bus rapid transit projects on Boulder Highway and Sahara Avenue, respectively. The projects had a peak employment of 168 jobs, according to Recovery Act data, meaning each job cost taxpayers just over $400,000.

Kyle Gillis is a reporter for Nevada Journal, a publication of the Nevada Policy Research Institute. For more in-depth reporting, visit http://nevadajournal.com/ and http://npri.org/.

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