A solar-powered Wi-Fi network with 400 access points is being set up by a local authority in the US.In the ParkWiFi network, 400 access points powered by the sun will provide wireless Internet coverage across all 10 square miles of St Louise Park, a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The network, set up by city officials and contractor Arinc, will serve 44,000 residents.
Each access point will have a battery to supply power and a solar panel to keep the battery charged, and be linked to the network with fibre optic cable. Most of the access points and solar panels will be mounted on 16-ft. poles that will be painted dark brown after residents raised aesthetic concerns to the City Council, according to the city's website.
The initiative began last year with approval of a partnership between the city and Unplugged Cities LLC.
Clint Pires, CIO for St. Louis Park, said his city is the first in the US to combine Wi-Fi and solar panels so widely.
"Our decision to use solar power reflects the city's philosophy of environmental stewardship, but we also expect to save US$40,000 to $50,000 each year by using solar power instead of electric utility connections," Pires said. The solar panels eliminate of the cost of paying the electric utility monthly fees for attaching the APs to utility poles and for the electricity to run them, Arinc said.
The network is expected to be start running in October, according to Arinc. However, the city said that residents' concerns over the poles delayed the rollout by six weeks, and the changes they requested will add $150,000 in costs.
Homeowners and businesses will be able to buy wireless broadband service over the network, priced from about $15 to $30 a month, plus the cost of a gateway device to improve the signal for about $5 a month, the city and Arinc said.
The city will retain ownership of the network and is paying some upfront costs, but subscription fees are expected to pay for the system, according to city records.