RICHBURG -- Chester County leaders plan to light the way for other counties with help from the sun.
Last week, the county landed a $200,000 grant to pay for solar lights, making Chester the first county in South Carolina to place these lights around an interstate exit.
The project is expected to be an example to other counties.
"They're going to use this as sort of a showplace," said Chester County Councilman Joe Branham. "We were ecstatic about that because of all the possibilities. ... People from all over the state's going to be in there looking at it and seeing what we're doing."
Branham, along with County Councilman Brad Jordan, pushed for the solar lights to be included in the county's master plan for Exit 65, the intersection of Interstate 77 and S.C. 9 and the county's major industrial artery.
Safety is the main reason for the lights. Leaders said they've had some problems with people crossing S.C. 9 at night as they walk from the motels on one side of the highway to the restaurants on the other. Some pedestrians have been nearly struck by passing vehicles.
Adding crosswalks and solar lights along sidewalks would make the area safer, officials said.
The grant consists of federal funds that are administered by the state Department of Transportation.
Leaders plan to place the lights down both sides of the exit, extending less than a mile in each direction.
A solar-powered street light works like this: A solar panel is attached to a street light that contains a battery. When the sun's rays fall on the panel, energy is transferred to and stored in the battery. At night, the battery powers the light.
The lights' batteries typically have a five-day life in case of inclement weather.
Critics claim the technology is inefficient, and the lights aren't bright enough. Some say the light designs aren't pleasant-looking, either.
Proponents of solar lighting say maintaining the technology is inexpensive, and the lights are immune to traditional power outages.
"Definitely, it's a positive step," said Joe Zdenek, chairman of Henry's Knob, a local environmental group affiliated with the S.C. Sierra Club. "We should be looking into all kinds of alternative energy sources."
Traditional power companies provide cheaper energy now, but the S.C. Energy Office expects that to change.
The office estimates that between 2015 and 2020, solar prices will be competitive with conventional energy rates.