Southern California drivers are using the first solar-powered devices to pay automatically for road tolls.IRVINE, California, US, 2001-11-28 [SolarAccess.com] The public toll-road agency in Orange County says pocket-sized devices, known as transponders, are part of the FasTrak(tm) system for collecting tolls electronically on the County’s 51 miles of public toll roads, which handle 200,000 trips a day. Solar-powered transponders are estimated to last up to eleven years, or twice as long as battery-powered units currently in use. Transponders are mounted on vehicle windshields and automatically deduct tolls from prepaid accounts when drivers pass under overhead readers on toll roads. TCA began exploring the idea of solar technology for toll collection in 1999, and developed a solution that uses free energy and will save policing agencies thousands of dollars in the long term. “No other toll-road agency in the world is using this technology,” says CEO Walter Kreutzen. “With the sunny weather we enjoy here nearly all year, bringing solar technology to the toll roads seems to make sense. We’re always looking for innovative ways to offer more value and better service to our customers.” The solar-powered transponders alternate between sunlight and a lithium battery for power. About 5,000 solar transponders will be distributed on a first-come basis to customers. Each transponder is marked with a unique ID number to track the device’s performance over time. FasTrak is also used for electronic toll collection on other tollways throughout California, including the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the 91 Express Lanes between Orange and Riverside county, the I-15 FasTrak lanes in San Diego, and on other toll bridges in Northern California.