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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Happy Independence Day 2015

Posted by SEPCO

6/29/15 10:00 AM

Happy Independence Day

For this 4th of July I wanted to throw in a little science just for fun and since solar deals primarily with the sun the subject seems fitting.  Every year around this time a phenomenon happens called aphelion. Basically speaking it means that this is the point when the Earth is farthest away from the sun which happens every year 2 weeks after the summer solstice. I am sure many are wondering how this is possible since the earth orbit is “round”. While this is true in a sense we actually orbit in a more oval pattern on a tilt with one end closer to the sun than the other. A distant sun means less sunlight for our planet and the sun is about 7% less on this day.

So I am sure you are wondering how it is so warm out if we are further from the sun. Seasonal weather patterns are shaped by the tilt of our planets spin axis not by the distance from the sun. During the northern summer the North Pole is tilted towards the sun which is why we have longer summer days. Believe it or not the whole earth is warmer at aphelion than any other time. This happens because overall there is more land mass north of the equator than there is south which makes the land heat up rather quickly, where as in the winter the northern hemisphere presents it water dominated parts to the sun. We may be closer to the sun in January but the extra sunlight gets spread throughout the ocean which gives us cooler winters. As a side note this is why solar systems have to be built to hold battery power longer during the winter months.

So this 4th when you go out and look at the sky the sun is actually smaller in size than at any other time of the year but it is not something that is really drastic enough to be seen by the naked eye. So besides the fireworks you can throw a little science in for the kids to ponder.

If you're feeling baked, take a hint from the watery southern hemisphere, locate the nearest swimming pool and dive in; feel the water's high heat capacity. A little physics can be refreshing....

Everyone here at SEPCO would like to wish you a safe and Happy 4th of July

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Topics: Holiday

Benefits of Renewable Energy

Posted by SEPCO

6/22/15 10:00 AM

Benefits of Renewable EnergyRenewable Energy and Green Power Energy efficiency opportunities have been available to some facilities across the county and some facilities may want to consider going green. It is studied that renewable energy is referenced as electricity distributed from energy sources in the form of Wind, Solar, Geothermal, Hydro and Biomass. These energies are abundant and based on energy flows that are replenished by natural process and does not become depleted when use, like fossil fuel or nuclear.

Renewable energy has unique costs and benefits than the conventional sources. Studies show that much higher level of renewable energy can be achieved while substantially reducing global warming emissions. Green power is more environmental, friendly, safer and healthy, if all the states embark on sound plan to created and maximize green, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Benefits of Renewable Energy:

Renewable energy improves health and environmental quality. Electricity generated from renewable energy rather than fossil fuels offer significant public health, environmental and economic benefits.

Renewable energy will significantly reduce premature mortality, lost work days and overall health care costs. Like the fossil fuels, they emit pollutions to our air and water which has been linked to breathing problems, neurological damaged heart attacks and cancer.

Green power is huge and in-exhaustible in supply, throughout the world, strong winds, sunny skies, plant residues, heat from the earth and fast moving tide can each provide a huge and consistent energy replenished supply. The diversity sources of renewable energy have immense potential to offer all the electricity a nation needs many times over if properly harnessed and managed as well.

Another important factor in using renewable energy sources is to help reduce the negative environmental effects associated with non-renewable energy sources such as coal and natural gas. Willingness to use a renewable energy source will not only decipher into cost savings for you over the long haul, but will also help protect the environment from the risks of fossil fuel emissions of non-renewable energy sources.

Economic Benefits:

Harnessing renewable energy is more labor intensive, as compared to fossil fuels, which is typically mechanized and capital intensive. On average, it creates a lot of jobs for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than fossil fuels. Increasing renewable energy has real potential to continue still job addition and creation.

Green energy in 2014 supports thousands of jobs in various capacities in the United State, for example Wind and Solar industries. These job gains would be enough on their own to reduce the unemployment rate in today’s economy by about two full percentage points, even after taking into full account the inevitable job losses in conventional fossil fuel sectors of the U.S. economy as they contract.

Sources: www.altenegy.com http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2014/09/24/is-renewable-energy-really-green/

About the Author: Peter Okwudi is a Machining Sales Engineer at Lere Technology. Prior to joining Lere Technology, he worked in strategic business development and consulting at several companies. Notably, his four years Energy Specialist of Business Development for Green Energy Expert LLC, where he directed major partnering initiatives. Also, a former mechanical engineering writer for Bright-Hub Engineering. Peter’s greatest strengths are his creativity, drive and leadership. He thrives on challenges, particularly those that expand the company’s reach. Peter holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, graduate certificate in renewable energy and sustainability and MBA in progress from Phoenix University. He lives in Charlotte with his wife, their three children.

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Topics: Guest Post, Renewable Energy

How to Protect Your LED Solar Lights from Theft and Vandalism

Posted by SEPCO

6/8/15 10:00 AM

Keep LED Solar Lights Safe

With the increasing costs of energy and the jump in demand for a renewable energy alternative, solar is increasingly being a commodity worth investing in. Making sure your systems are safe from theft and vandalism is important to ensure the longevity of the system you purchase. Here are a few tips to make sure your systems stay safe for years to come.

  1. Install High on a Pole

Probably a minimum of 10’ should be where the solar should be mounted. These systems are not easy to just grab and go, and with a good height of installation, the systems are even more difficult. Instead of just being able to walk up to a power assembly, a ladder at minimum will be required to get to the bolts and bracketry that holds the systems together on the pole.

  1. Use Vandal Hardware

If the system is lower, using vandal hardware will require special tooling to be able to remove the systems from their mounting. This will make it even more difficult for systems to be taken apart in the field. Just make sure you don’t lose the key in case you ever have to move the system.

  1. Full Metal Back

If you are installing the LED solar lights in an area that is prone to vandalism, the backs are exposed to all types of things that can harm the solar cells. Having a system with a full protective back metal panel pan will help prevent anything from being able to damage the fragile backside of the solar panels. Vandals and wind-blown debris in a bad storm all can damage the solar. Having the option of using a full protective backside will keep those panels safe.

  1. Lexan Front Protection

Lexan is installed to protect the front of the panels. Today, most solar panel manufactures are building solar panels that are much more durable than ever before, check out this great video from SolarWorld:

 

 

If you have a system that doesn’t have durable glass like these modules, then using Lexan to protect the front of the system can be a great alternative. This is primarily suggested for areas prone to hail or areas close to sports centers such as golf, baseball, etc.

Talk to your manufacturer and see what options they have available for protecting the system.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Why Uniformity Is Important For Solar Street Lights

Posted by SEPCO

6/1/15 10:00 AM

Martin County Airport Night Solar Street Lights

Ever drive down a road and there is a whole stretch of lights, but all you see are small circles of light on the ground every hundred feet or so and nothing in between? This doesn’t really help with visibility. However, when you go down a road that has uniform lighting, with no dark areas between the lights, visibility is increased tenfold. Uniformity provides better visual assistance and does not put as much strain on the eyes. When designing a solar street light project, uniformity still needs to be taken into consideration.

IES standards are different between roadways. Large freeways and highways have much different light level requirements than urban roads. Even different cities and municipalities have their own set of standards that go above what IES standards are. Gathering this information and completing a lighting layout to match the standards will be the first step in making sure that the new solar street lights are uniform and meet minimum standards.

Most companies can provide you with the lighting layouts if requested. This is performed by an engineer within the company to ensure that the spacing, wattage, and light level requirements are all within the constraints of the system. If dimming will be used, a new rendering showing what the light levels will be when the fixtures are dimmed should also be shown. This will allow for a better understanding of what to expect when the fixtures are reduced.

Martin County Airport Day Solar Street Lights

There are also many fixture options when looking at solar street lights. We are no longer stuck with standard Cobrahead style lights, allowing for decorative and more modern options for different architectural needs. The implementation of LEDs allows for uniform lighting levels between various fixture sets. A bell style fixture which used to only produce a round area of light directly below the fixture can now provide different distribution patterns and allow for lighting of roadways with uniformity.

LED lights also provide much better lighting with much less light loss from wasted light. Older style fixtures such as metal halide and high pressure sodium had a lot of wasted light. The lumens of the lamp get thrown in all directions and the fixtures were designed to push the light out everywhere with no real task lighting.  LEDs provide task specific lighting and are pushing the light in only in the area that requires lighting. This additional efficiency allows for the use of much less power, fewer lumens, and better overall lighting and uniformity.

The solar allows for additional features such as easy installation, lighting where no power is currently available or difficult to bring in, and efficient use of LED technology since the LEDs themselves operate on DC, not on AC, and provide more efficiency of the fixture. The technologies now work hand in hand to provide the required uniformity with the use of solar for a complete solar street lights application.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

3 Strategies to Help You Design the Perfect Solar Lighting System

Posted by SEPCO

5/18/15 10:00 AM

Solar Lighting System Design

Not all solar lighting systems are created equal. Each has their own unique qualities and benefits. Understanding system differences along with your own requirements will allow you to build the perfect solar lighting system solution for your project while working with your designer. The three strategies of designing the perfect solar lighting system below will help you best determine what you need and how to achieve the best outcome.

1. Know how much light is required

Does your lighting project require IES Standard light levels? Or is there more requirements in your area? Talking to local code enforcement will help you determine if there are any guidelines you must follow or if there is no set numbers to the type of lighting required. IES Standards are a good guideline for most projects; however, different municipalities have different variations to the standards that they can enforce.

If you are in an area where IES Standards are okay, letting your lighting designer know this information will help them work to determine what type of light, distribution and brightness will be required for your project. Providing the designer with additional information, such as the length of the roadway, size of the parking lot, dimensions of the area, etc, will allow for the designer to provide additional information such as a light layout to show uniformity and light levels across an entire project.

2. Understand system constraints

Depending on the installation area and system requirements, some projects are just more feasible than others. A 70 Watt LED fixture operating all night will require one size of solar power assembly to operate the fixture from dusk to dawn in one location, but a completely different size in another. This is due to the solar radiance that is available in any specific location. Instead of just looking at a certain wattage, looking at light level requirements should be the first step to determine what is required for the project. Decreasing the wattage and adding a pole or two in many cases can actually create a more feasible project in the end and still provide the correct light levels.

Storage requirements also vary from one location to the next. From the Tennessee / Kentucky border south, five nights autonomy is adequate for backup power; however, the further north you go, the more storage the system will require. Also, look at local weather patterns. How many days of cloudy / overcast weather does the area typically receive? Understanding this along with how cold an area gets will help determine how much is adequate for backup storage to ensure system operation and longevity.

3. Determine operation schedules

Solar lighting systems can be provided with multiple operation schedules to meet the needs of the project. Determining the operation schedule when initially designing the project will help ensure that the system will operate as needed and is sized accordingly. Dusk to dawn operation is the most popular configuration; however, split time and dimming helps reduce the requirements of the solar allowing for smaller power assemblies. Do not just assume that the fixtures will operate dusk to dawn, full intensity, unless this has been determined at initial system design. Many companies use control electronics that override the system to provide adaptive lighting controls that are outside the original design requirements. Instead, work with the design team to understand the exact controls being used for the system being installed. If dimming, split time, motion, or any other operation profiles are allowed, make sure to specify this initially.

Understanding these three important design requirements before getting a final system design will ensure that your system will operate the way it is required with the correct lighting levels, uniformity, operation and sizing for the specific project. One size does not fit all in any solar application, lighting or power, and should be specific to each individual project. This ensures you will never be left in the dark.

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Topics: Solar Lighting Design

Comparing Apples to Apples: Solar Powered Lighting Systems

Posted by SEPCO

5/11/15 10:00 AM

Solar Powered Lighting Systems

There are many variations when it comes to solar powered lighting systems and it is difficult to compare them to one another. Each manufacturer has its design parameters and understanding these differences will allow you to make an educated determination if the system will meet your design needs.

Solar Power Assembly

Every solar power assembly is sized specific to the light fixture that it is powering. The size of the solar power assembly is either determined with design requirements by the end user, or by a technician that uses a basic formula for all systems. This sets apart one manufacturer from the next. Systems that provide integrated solar power assemblies into an “all in one” solution have set the solar to provide x amount of charge no matter where the solar powered light is located geographically. Other manufacturers take into consideration the local conditions of the project and use those figures to determine how much solar is required to adequately power the light fixture.

Battery Storage Assembly

Solar panels charge the batteries during the day and the batteries power the light fixture at night. Pretty simple, but if the batteries are sized for only the amount of storage to operate the fixture for one night, the maintenance schedule will be much different from systems that provide a minimum autonomy. This also varies greatly between manufacturers. Depending on what the end user is expecting for maintenance and longevity of a system will help determine what suits the end user best.

Control Electronics

Different control options are always available. There are a lot of adaptive lighting controls on the market today being used by all different manufacturers. Some allow the system to do as it will when it comes to lighting as the controller, being the brains of the system, dims and turns off the lights as it sees it should due to battery discharge rates. There are manufactures that can provide strict dusk to dawn lighting with no dimming or adaptive controls. This is always completed by the system design engineers and should always be visible in the system specifications. You definitely don’t want to be left out in the dark when you least expect it.

Light Fixtures

Solar light fixtures have come a long way in the past 10 years with the integration of LED fixtures. LEDs have even advanced drastically over the last few years with many changes in lumen output and longevity. Looking at the lumen output, wattage, and longevity of the fixture will allow for the best determination of the amount of light output the fixture has as well as how long the light fixture will last. 100k hours is about standard today, but that is also increasing steadily as well as a higher lumen output per LED, allowing for the same amount of light out of a much lower wattage fixture than ever before.

Look over the specifications of different systems will show the differences and similarities allowing you to compare apples to apples.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Solar Power Sign Light Design: Step by Step

Posted by SEPCO

4/27/15 10:00 AM

Moraine-College-Solar Power Sign Light One of our most popular articles is Street Light Design and I thought it was about time to offer a step by step to sign lighting design. This will give you the information on designing a perfect sign lighting solution from the beginning to end.

Step 1 – Determine the size of the sign

First thing is how big is the sign? Is it single or double sided? Does the entire sign need to be illuminated or just a single portion? What about internally illuminated signs? Knowing exactly how much area is going to require coverage will help narrow down the design parameters quickly. Internal signs require additional engineering, but knowing the height, width and depth of the sign cabinet is part of the first step to determine how much light is going to be required.

Step 2 – Find out if electric is available

A lot of signs are installed in medians or out where standard grid power doesn’t readily exist. If you were to bring electric to the site of the sign, how much is this going to cost? Is this going to destroy surrounding area such as roads, landscapes, etc? Don’t forget to leave the repair work out of your cost figures.

Step 3 – Determine the lighting requirements

How much light will be required to adequately illuminate the sign? Any lighting company can help you determine what are the best light levels for a sign and offer suggestions. Also, does the sign need to be illuminated from dusk to dawn? For businesses, this could be a yes for nighttime marketing efforts. For an HOA, this may be no and will allow for the lights to turn off after midnight and then on an hour or so before dawn. Lowering power consumption helps on many levels.

Knoxville-Internal-Solar-Sign-LightStep 4 – Final all alternatives

Solar power sign light systems come in a variety of shapes, sizes, costs, etc. There are solutions out there online that are only a few hundred dollars and others that range in the thousands. Depending on the long term requirements and how you want the system to operate can determine what system you will need.

Step 5 – Get lots of quotes

The last step is to send your information to companies for quotes. Just like with anything else, get multiple quotes and weigh the pros and cons of every company and situation. The lowest quote is not always the best, so make sure to do your research on companies and products before you submit a purchase order. Compare information from companies like light output, system components, warranty, life expectancy, etc. to help you determine what you are actually paying for and what you are spending.

If you take your time, do your research, and gather needed requirements, your next sign lighting project will be a success. Never be afraid to ask a lot questions, they may save you time and money in the long run.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Lighting Design, Sign Lighting

5 Reasons to Install Solar Panels

Posted by SEPCO

4/20/15 10:00 AM

Solar_on_Roof

Nowadays sustainable use of energy is being focused a lot. With that usage of renewable and unconventional energy resources are more concentrated upon as compared to the non-renewable and conventional energy resources. If you haven’t installed solar panels yet, below listed are a few reasons to get one as soon as possible:

Increases the value of your house
If you are planning to sell your house in future or may be today, experts say that solar panels increases the value of the house by 6%. It is a lot easier to sell a house with solar panels as compared to the ones that are without it. The main reason behind it is that the new family, which will live in the house, would be free from the high electricity bills. Moreover, they will also enjoy the feed in tariff regimes. When the rates of electricity are increasing every year, a house with a solar panel is no less than a heaven.

Reduces pollution in the environment

Many say that they cannot alone change the scenario of increased pollution in the environment. Solar panels have changed this mentality of people. If one uses solar panel on their house, they will reduce up to thirty tonnes of carbon dioxide over the system’s lifetime. Thus, your bit will be surely counted and would definitely bring change in the environment. 

Low maintenance

Solar panels provide the user with low upkeep. They don’t require much maintenance just keep them free from snow and leaves other than that solar panels will never bother you. Most companies provide twenty-five years warranty for the solar panels.

Best investment

No other schemes or saving accounts will provide such return rates than the installation of solar panels. It is ensured that for twenty-five years or more your installation is tax free and installation guaranteed.

No drawbacks

One of the best reasons to install solar panels in your offices, homes, schools etc. is that they have no drawbacks or side effects. All you need to do is enjoy the perks conferred by the government for installing them.

Aforementioned points are some of the reasons to get your place equipped with solar panels. If you haven’t installed them yet, it is a good time to look into it as the prices of solar panels have dropped drastically in the last couple of years. Moreover, with so many money saving benefits, install solar panels and enjoy electricity at low rates while saving the environment as well as money in the long run.

About the Author: Ashley Elizabeth blogs to share knowledge and provide solutions.

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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas, Solar Power

LightFair International 2015: Changing how we light up the world

Posted by SEPCO

4/13/15 10:00 AM

LFI2015

If you’ve never heard of it before, LightFair International is a conference and trade show specific to the lighting industries. This includes interior and exterior lighting, design and energy reduction and efficiency technologies displayed and discussed for the week of May 3 – 7th this year. Check out the overview of last year’s show:

 

 

This year, our own Stephanie will be providing a course on System Design, Case Studies and Economic Analysis for Exterior Area and Roadway Solar Photovoltaic along with Graybar’s Jeff Shields. This course will review the solar exterior and roadway lighting systems sizing and design factors that need to be taken into consideration along with tools that can be used to help with design. The course will also review an economic analysis and case study on two projects. Finally, it will review grants, incentives and funding options for solar lighting systems. If you are in the New York area, you don’t want to miss this, as well as all the other wonderful courses that are available.

So whether you are an architect, designer, contractor, or even end user, LightFair 2015 will be full of innovative ideas and information for any lighting project you have now or in the future. Come visit us at Booth 441 and see what we and the rest of the lighting manufacturers have in store for you. We can’t wait to see you there.

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Topics: Energy Show

What Light Pollution Means to the Future of Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

4/6/15 10:00 AM

Florida Coast by The City Dark DocumentaryWe are from a small town, so the difference between us and a place like New York City as far as light pollution is way different; however, we all experience some form of light pollution. Light pollution isn’t something you think of, but does it really affect us?

Light pollution is the way light shines upwards illuminating dust and debris in the air and creates a cloud effect that blocks out the night sky. Since the beginning of time, we have depended on the night sky for information in regards to location, seasons, direction, etc., but with modern technology, we don’t rely on this for our information, but does it still affect us? And if so, what can we do to change the light pollution factor of areas?

Granted, all light cannot be lost at night and we will never have the dark sky at all times at night that happened hundreds of years ago, but light pollution can be reduced. Providing light in the areas they are required at the times they are required, and using dark sky compliant fixtures, will lower the amount of light pollution and increase our visibility to the night sky. The US spends 1.5 billion dollars every year on wasted energy due to light pollution. Towns all over the US are setting light ordinances moving towards using full cutoff fixtures only to preserve the night sky as well as reducing costs.

I recently wanted a documentary on this very subject called The City Dark and learned a lot about how we see the night sky in different locations. The films looked at the light in New York City and out in Arizona and the differences were amazing.

The light pollution doesn’t just affect animals, but humans as well. The US National Library of Medicine did a study on the health effects of light pollution.  Decreased melatonin produced in the body effects our hormonal system and sleep cycles. Melatonin deficiencies cause an increased risk of cancers, especially breast cancer, and it is unknown what other risk factors this produces. Many sleep disorders are also caused by light pollution. The study says we are only at the tip of the ice burg in research at this point.

Turtle Friendly Solar Light in Bradenton Beach FloridaSo what does this mean for the light industry? California has taken the light pollution into consideration, as well as the wasted energy, and implemented Title 24 Energy Efficient Standards. These standards are for residential and non-residential areas to decrease their use when the light is not required, like after a facility is closed, and using full cutoff fixtures with motion sensor or adaptive lighting controls. This is set to lower the consumption of electricity in the state.

Other states, like Hawaii, require LPS lamps for their telescope areas with a full cutoff fixture so there is little to no light pollution and any light will not affect their telescopes when looking at the night sky. Areas like Florida are required to use amber color light with full cutoff along coastal areas due to sea turtles. All these different steps are being taken to help reduce light pollution and the affects they have on nature.

What can you do? Take steps to not waste light where it is not needed, provide high efficiency lights, look at local ordinances when installing new lighting and turn it off when you don’t need it. Small steps can be taken in both a residential and business to ensure that we all do our part in reducing the impact we have on the environment and us as a species.

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Topics: Solar Lighting Design, Turtle Friendly Lighting, Dark Sky Friendly Lighting

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