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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Happy Thanksgiving 2014

Posted by SEPCO

11/27/14 9:30 AM

From the SEPCO - Solar Electric Power Company  Family to you, we would like to wish everyone a wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving_2014
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Topics: Holiday

SEPCO Featured in Electrical Products & Solutions

Posted by SEPCO

11/25/14 9:30 AM

Electrical Products & Solutions recently featured SEPCO in their November issue of their Purchase Guide for Electrical Contractors. This feature went over some of our most prominent projects and explained information in regards to the benefits and savings that is provided by commercial solar lighting systems.

Want to read the article? Check it out on EPSMag’s November Digital Issue.

 EPA_Mag_Cover

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Topics: SEPCO News & Information

How to Have a Green Thanksgiving

Posted by SEPCO

11/20/14 9:30 AM

Green_Thanksgiving

It’s that time of year again. The smell of turkey cooking, green bean and sweet potato casserole and of course grandma’s pumpkin pie, but while we are thinking of what we are thankful for don’t forget about Mother Nature. After all, without her we would not be able to enjoy the food on our plate. It may be a little too late to completely rethink your entire plan for Thanksgiving, but there is still time to make a few adjustments to keep your Thanksgiving green and maybe even start some new family traditions to pass on to our future generation.

I have already bought my turkey, farm raised locally, and some of the other essentials for my traditional dinner, but I usually try to buy my vegetables and fruits as close as possible to my meal. There are few ways you can help the local economy and environment with very little effort. Let’s start before we even walk out the door. Grab your reusable bags of any kind to carry your haul home. Any kind of bag you have around will do even those old grocery bags you saved from your last trip to the store. I am guilty of always forgetting my cloth reusable bags when I go to the store so I do regretfully have a stock pile of plastic grocery store bags, since most of us already have them repurpose them. Reusing any extra bag you have lying around is greener than buying a new one, not to mention even easier on the wallet.

Where I live there are green markets that happen every Sunday or food co-ops, so it is easy to go pick up those last minute items that will be fresh and perfect for my Thursday meal. Most of the time not only is the food fresher, but it does not come with unnecessary packaging or chemicals and is usually cheaper. It is easy to grab a few containers along with your bags and put any loose items in them instead of the plastic produce bag. I can buy my lettuce without the plastic package and make sure I have all fresh leaves this way. Many times the farmers will have things like tomatoes, green beans, and blueberries in baskets that are already weighed out. Since it is going to be a big dinner buying in bulk should not be a problem and any extra you may have can be put in the freezer to use at a later time.

An obvious way to go green is to use regular plates and silverware versus the plastic utensils or Styrofoam plates that most of the time are not recyclable and can actually be harmful to the environment. If you don’t have enough of the same matching plates and silverware you could use the regular stuff for the kids table that way you don’t have to worry about the fancy stuff and kids usually don’t judge how pretty their plate looks. Use cloth napkins and repurpose those mason jars as flower vases or beeswax candle holders. Get creative and make some personal decorations. You can create your own potpourri by simply using cinnamon sticks and dried berries. My kids love making crafts and the family loves seeing what their works of art; my personal favorite is the traced hand turkey.

Over indulging is easy to do and something I am guilty of at every holiday meal, but food waste is one thing that can easily be avoided. Instead of stacking as much on your plate as possible start with small portions, it is easy to make a second trip and you are also less likely to consume as many calories. Try to make platters smaller so there is less leftover and not as much temptation to eat so much. I tend to drink water instead of soda as much as possible but it is easy to put more water in my glass then I consume. Any easy way to avoid water waste is to let guest refill their glass as needed and don’t worry about refilling when the glass is half full, or if there ends up being extra use it to water your plants.

Since we are putting smaller portions on our plate it is very likely we will end up with leftovers so try asking your guest to bring to-go containers and that way it doesn’t all end up in your fridge and thrown away because you can’t eat it all before it spoils. Being prepared with to-go containers will make you less likely to use saran wrap, Ziplocs, or a paper plate to send food home. If your family is anything like mine we always have a ton of desserts that we could not eat if we tried. A solution to this may be to plan accordingly so there are not as many made or give it to a neighbor, take it to work or even throw a dessert party for your kids’ friends.

Last comes the dreaded clean up. There are easy steps to take to reduce waste when cleaning up. First uses rags instead of paper towels and sponges and then hang them to dry after use. Turn the water off between wiping down counters and adding dish soap. In my home I try to use environmentally friendly cleaning products which are pretty easy to find and use much less harmful chemicals. Your guest can even get in on the action by properly disposing their waste into different containers that are marked recyclable or trash. Compost the food scraps like vegetable peels and eggshells which can be turned into garden soils. If composting is not an option check out different ways to use the remains for new meals like using vegetable scraps and the turkey carcass to make stock or soups by boiling them down. Leftover break crust or rolls can be used to make croutons for salads later in the week.

We would like everyone to have a wonderful Thanksgiving and try to keep in mind what we are thankful for and what is the most important, our family, friends and the earth we live on. Let’s all do our part to make sure that they are all preserved for years to come by doing all we can to keep it green.

Happy Thanksgiving from your SEPCO Family.

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Topics: Green Ideas, Fun Green Articles, Holiday

Ways to Save Money with Commercial Street Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

11/18/14 9:30 AM

Dania-Beach-4Commercial street lighting provides light along streets for driver safety, but the costs of installing, maintaining and monthly electrical bills can add up. There are steps you can take to reduce the costs and save money in the long run. Here are a few ideas, and feel free to share yours below in the comments.

 

Illuminate uniformly

Illuminating the streets uniformly provide the best lighting levels for security purposes. Spotty lighting does not allow for the safety that is needed on roadways and is basically wasting light and power. Provide even illumination and eliminate dark areas makes sure you are using every bit of energy to its maximum potential.

 

Switch to LED fixtures

LED lights provide better illumination while reducing operation costs and reducing maintenance. LED fixtures are more costly for initial purchase, but compared to HID, LPS and HPS fixtures, they can reduce the power consumption by a third or more and only need replacement once every 10 to 25 years. Best of all, LEDs use most of the power they draw for lighting purposes, unlike older style lamps that only use a small percentage of the power to provide light, the rest produces heat.

 

Provide maximum lighting when needed

Instead of running a 150 Watt LED fixture at full intensity all night, most streets can reduce the wattage of the fixture by lowering the fixture on the pole and only provide the lighting necessary for the application. There are few applications where high powered lights are required such as on a highway or major intersection. Also, reducing the fixture by utilizing dimming features with LEDs when there is practically no traffic, lowers the power usage for off peak times.

 

Install commercial solar street light systems

Using commercial solar street light systems in areas where there is no grid power nearby allows for the ability to provide the same safety and security in rural areas. These areas can sometimes be more dangerous than urban areas since there is more wildlife that can wander out in the middle of the road and without proper lighting, can cause fatal accidents. Mixing solar power with LED fixtures, maintenance will be minimal and there will be no electrical costs or worries for underground wiring to destroy the roads in these areas.

What other steps do you think would improve the efficiency and help save money when it comes to street lighting?

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Topics: LED Lighting, Street Lighting, Commercial Street Light LED Fixtures

The A – Z of Solar LED Area Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

11/13/14 9:30 AM

Solar LED Area LightingSolar LED area lighting can be used for many applications ranging from small single LED lights along a pathway to large overhead lights for roadways and parking lots. Each system should be designed for the specific application and to provide the required lighting levels. Good research on the project application, design work and choosing of the final product will ensure that the end user gets exactly the type of system that perfectly fits their needs.

Small walkway lighting can be accomplished in multiple ways. From small off-the-shelf lighting systems for home walkways to larger corporate walkways using higher powered bollard fixtures vary in their design, costs and maintenance. The off-the-shelf systems typically each have their own solar panel, battery and all included in each fixture. These systems are not high powered, but can outline the area they are placed along. These systems require a lot of maintenance as their solar is only sized to provide a small amount of power with little to no backup from the battery, making the system use all available power nightly and reducing the battery lifespan dramatically; typically needing replacing every year or two.

Larger bollard fixtures can be installed in one of two ways; each having their own solar power system integrated within the bollard fixture, or multiple bollards powered off a single large power array. The single bollards that each has their own solar power system provide a little better storage than the small big box solar lighting systems; however, they will still require much more maintenance than a commercial lighting system. These types of systems have a flat panel on the top of each light requiring constant cleaning, especially in the northern snowy areas, and are more prone to vandalism. The batteries are typically only a couple day backup, which still produces a short lifespan of a battery. Large solar arrays powering multiple fixtures will provide a longer lasting system as there is typically a minimum of five nights autonomy and the solar is sized to replace the total usage every night in the worst case scenario, winter.

Other area lighting applications use larger fixtures such as floods and overhead light fixtures. These are much higher powered systems and provide large area lighting for parking lots, streets, perimeters, etc. These systems each have their own solar power assembly to provide the power to the fixture and operate as specified by the end user. These systems need to still be sized properly to ensure they are reliable and provide a long lifespan.

These larger projects have a considerable amount of customization options and discussing the needs of the project with the lighting designer will guarantee that the light specified for the project will meet the needs perfectly. Different distributions for different lighting applications can be used to customize the lighting system so that lighting is only installed where needed and not wasted. Also, control options provide specific lighting needs, such as dusk to dawn or specific timing, even dimming options that can be considered. Always make sure that the lighting representative knows the end project requirements before specifying any type of custom control electronics.

Next time you are looking to light up an area and need a solar option, consult your solar lighting specialist to help you design the perfect system tailored to your specific needs. From big to small, solar LED area lighting can be a great choice.

 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Boat Ramp Lighting, Off Grid Solar Lighting, Large Area Lighting, Area Lighting

Happy Veterans Day 2014

Posted by SEPCO

11/11/14 9:30 AM

As a Veteran Owned Business all of us here at SEPCO would like to wish a Happy Veterans Day to every soldier, past, present & future, for their service for our Freedom. Our real heroes are the American soldiers and their families and we all owe a never-ending debt of gratitude to them both for their service and the sacrifices that they have made.


Happy Veterans Day: a day of remembrance and gratitude that should be honored year-round!

 

Veterans_Day_2014

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Topics: Holiday

7 Questions That Level the Commercial Solar Lighting Playing Field

Posted by SEPCO

11/6/14 9:30 AM

Commercial Solar Lighting Playing FieldSolar Lighting is not all the same. Yes, they include panels, batteries, light fixtures, control electronics and brackets for mounting the fixture and solar; however, there are many differences when deciding the best solution for your project. Here are the 7 questions you should ask to ensure you are getting exactly what you are looking for and to be able to compare the offerings of different solar lighting manufacturers.

  1. What is the type of solar module used?

Is the solar module single or multi-crystal panels? Mono (single) and Poly (multi) crystal panels, though vary in efficiencies, are both great for energy production and work well in off grid solar situations. Making sure you are purchasing quality solar panels will ensure their long life span and energy production. Some unknown brands of solar panels will state that they provide the same power; however, they typically cannot stand up to the test of time like well-known solar panel manufacturers do, as well as back their products and stand by them on the warranties.

  1. What type of fixture is being used?

All fixtures are not equal. Finding out the lumens per watt provided by the fixture will allow you to determine the light output of the fixture. Also, you need to find out how long the fixtures have been in production and if they are from a reputable company. You don’t want a fixture that hasn’t been field tested for some time by a company that has no experience in the lighting industry. Especially with LED fixtures, you want to make sure the fixture will last as long as the system does.

  1. Is there protection for the solar?

Protecting your solar power system is a great way to safeguard that your system will stay standing for years to come. Some companies, such as ours, use panel pans to protect the fragile backside of the solar panels. Vandal hardware can also be used to make sure that the system cannot be easily removed from installation site. Finally, higher quality solar panel manufacturers use tougher glass material on the front of the panel so not to get damage from wind-blown debris and storms that include hail.

  1. What are the controls of the system?

Knowing exactly how your system will operate will guarantee you are getting exactly what you are expecting from your solar lighting system. Some companies hide in the fine print that their systems in fact operate all night; however, after so long, it will be at a reduced wattage, sometimes as low as a fraction of the original wattage requested. Make sure you get the control profile of the system that matches your needs. If dimming is an option on your project, great, but make sure you know how much the fixture will be dimming. If no dimming is allowed, make sure to read through the fine print. Learn about all the control options available before you finalize your design.

  1. Is there enough storage for inclement weather?

Five days storage is the minimum required backup for most areas; however, the further north your installation site is, the larger the storage will need to be. Five days does not cut it in New York like it does in Texas since the depth of discharge on cold batteries is much larger than in the warmer weather, lowering the life of the battery and increasing down time and maintenance costs. There are also many more overcast days in the north during the winter than in the south. Know the amount of storage that is appropriate for your area and verify that there is enough storage for your systems to operate all winter long.

  1. What type of materials is used in construction?

Materials may not seem like a very important discussion initially, but the way the systems, including the mounting brackets, fixtures, etc. are constructed will determine how long your system will hold up in the field. Marine grade aluminum is one of the best materials used in the industry since it does not corrode or deteriorate and can last as long as the complete system. Other metals, such as steel, tend to rust (unless galvanized) and powder coating the system can also improve the life of the metal as well. Plastics are a definite no-no in the main construction of the system as sunlight tends to break them down and cannot withstand the long lasting needs of a commercial solar lighting system.

  1. What type of pole is the equipment mounting to?

Finally, what type of solar light poles is the equipment mounting to? Is it round? Square? Steel? Aluminum? There are many questions that need to be asked before installation. We never recommend using a square pole since the solar power system needs to face due south and this does not always allow for the fixture and the solar to face the correct directions. A round tapered pole is best as the taper allows for added strength to withstand the added weight and EPA (effective projected area) of the system as a whole. If you purchase the pole from the manufacturer, make sure it will withstand the local AASHTO wind ratings, is made with a long lasting material and compliments your project as a whole.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Solar Lighting Design, Off Grid Solar Lighting

Implementing Solar LED Outdoor Lighting for Commercial Property Saving

Posted by SEPCO

11/4/14 9:30 AM

ABC-Domes-7One of the primary problems facing any commercial business operator is making sure their business stays profitable. If you can't make money you're bound to have trouble keeping a business afloat, it's just the nature of the beast. Of all the things you could do in hopes of cutting costs one that's probably going to be the least detrimental to health of your company is looking into switching out your source of electricity. Standard electric can be a bit costly, not only due to rate increases from whichever company is supplying your power, but also the upkeep of the system and the constant changing of the bulbs in your system. As a result of this cost many businesses have been taking steps to focus more on use of solar LED outdoor lighting systems. These systems will allow you to cut the cost of having to pay one of the power companies for the sake of lighting your business and the surrounding parking area. Solar power is the best option these days due to its cost cutting ability as well as its ability to renew itself day after day. If you're looking for a way to light your business, you can't really do much better than to switch over to solar power instead of standard electricity.

There are a ton of benefits to going solar over standard electricity; one of the primary positives is the fact that the government looks very kindly on people going green. When you choose to go solar in place of a standard electrical hookup you're eligible for certain tax breaks as you're helping to turn around things in favor of the environment. Not only are you able to get apply for, and receive, tax credits for the work you're doing in swapping from standard to solar power, you also may have the opportunity to sign up for grants to pay for your project. If you're looking to make your business turn as solid of a profit as possible you're going to want to go with solar LED outdoor lighting, it's one of the best moves that anyone can do while starting things up. Solar power has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years and it appears that it's growing even more every day, with the potential for printed solar panels on their way to the market soon it would seem that solar will finally become much more affordable than in years past as well.

With the steady stream of companies switching over to the solar power sources for their lighting, one of the top choices has become to go to the LED lights in the system. LED lights are amazing due to their low wattage output while not losing any of their luminosity. LED bulbs have a tendency to be incredibly bright which would help guarantee your location is well once the sun goes down. Between the low wattage use, the high visibility created, and the length of time that the bulbs last you're looking at an incredible cost savings. This is typically one of the biggest expenses a business could have up front; going the solar LED way is the best option to keep your location well lit so that nobody is injured on your property. You've got plenty of choices when it's time to change out your lights, of all those choices, the combination of LED and solar lighting is easily the best bet for saving energy, and more importantly saving money. You can consider your options, but in the end you're not going to find anything better than LED lights run on a solar powered system.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Off Grid Solar Lighting

Solar Lighting Solutions are Bound to Make an Impact on Your Business

Posted by SEPCO

10/30/14 9:30 AM

Solar lighting solutionsSolar lighting solutions can positively impact a business for a few different reasons. Here are three, but I’m sure there are more. Feel free to add yours below.

 

Impact your bottom line

Solar lighting solutions will impact your bottom line, especially in the long term. Installing solar in the initial build phase of a business will do the most impact in regards to the bottom line. The solar lights reduce the cost of wiring parking lots and entrance roadways with standard electric. They also allow for the addition of lights on existing areas that do not have access to the electric grid. Replacement of existing electric does not have the initial financial impact since the purchase of the solar lighting systems can be costly; however, when looking at the long term ROI of the solar project, and comparing that to electrical costs that rise year after year, the savings will add up in the long run.

 

Impact your green initiative

Is your business looking to be greener and have less of an impact on the environment? Solar lighting solutions provide just that. Since the systems are off the grid, they use no power to operate the fixtures and have a zero carbon impact. The systems charge during the day and operate from the solar charged batteries at night. The system is completely self-contained and practically maintenance free with the implementation of LEDs, there is little costs past initial installation. The only thing to worry about is changing of batteries, but these are also recyclable so there is much less impact there.

 

Impact your image with your customers

Image is always top on the list of any business; you always want to attract customers to your place. With the climate change awareness that is happening today, people prefer to use greener companies and local businesses over other types of companies. Showcasing the green initiative to your customers by using solar lighting, along with using solar to help offset your actual building electrical usage, will impact you image positively to your customers. It shows how you are looking out for our future and doing your part to lessen your impact on the earth.

What other impacts on a business would solar have? Let me know in the comments below.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting, Pathway Lighting, Off Grid Solar Lighting

Going Green for Halloween

Posted by SEPCO

10/28/14 9:30 AM

green-halloween

Who said Halloween has to be all orange and black? With a little do-it-yourself work and imagination, All Hallows' Eve can go green, too. Like any holiday, Halloween offers an opportunity to go green without sacrificing an ounce of festive fun. Going green for Halloween is also a nice way to cut down on spending, as the average American is projected to spend over $75 toward the October 31st festivities.

diy_halloween_costumeGoing green is actually much easier than some may think. Making your own costume has to be one of the easiest things we can don not to mention it will probably save you some green as well. Another thing to think about with that wonderful store bought costume is how they are made. The truth is many store-bought costumes and accessories contain toxic chemicals that not only are a potential hazard to your child, but also to the environment and the people who helped to make them. Choose fabrics such as cotton, wool and silk or make costumes yourself from materials you know to be safe. Use some of those old clothes in the back of the closet or shop a local thrift store and make something unique that only you will have no copy cats here. You are able to get creative this way and who doesn’t love a little arts and craft project. I don’t know about you but Pinterest is one of my go to places when I need a little inspiration.

The next easiest item to do for a green Halloween is easy. Back when I was young we used pillow cases to collect our candy, cheap and always available. Once again you are not spending money on a plastic pumpkin that usually only last about half way through trick or treating before it breaks but you are keeping the potentially toxic plastics away from our children and the landfill. Pillow cases can be fun since they too can also be decorated and made your own and you can pick some extras up while you are at the thrift store getting your costume supplies. If you don’t want to use an old pillowcase a reusable grocery bag would do the trick as well.

When decorating there are so many options to help with a green Halloween, these are just a few but there are always more. LED lights are the easiest solution for saving energy this holiday. Even though some may not decorate as much as they would for Christmas the decorations are getting more and more elaborate each year. I can even say I have added more to my collection this year. Don’t forget the pathway lights that can be solar powered and you can even choose from a wide variety of colors to match your theme. There are companies that specialize in eco-friendly decorations vs. the “made in China” plastic ones sold at most convenience stores. Did you ever wonder what you might be able to do with those old stockings that have the runs in them, how about turning them into spider webbing? When you receive a package go ahead and save those boxes and cut them into tombstones and you can always paint the packing peanuts to make them look like worms. I use paint sticks glued to the back to my tombstones to hold them up. Even better if you have the storage and are a crafty wood worker grab some plywood and cut the graves from that and they will be able to be used for years to come.

diy_decorationsLet’s not forget about one of the most important symbols the pumpkins we get to carve.  The first thing you should do is buy pumpkins from local farms or farmers markets. Even better, grow your own, what kid doesn’t love to watch something they planted grow.  Something I just learned this year is that if you dunk your perfectly carved pumpkin in vinegar it actually preserves them longer so no need to worry about the sloppy mess that can be left after Halloween. Also those solar lights you picked up can be used to make the inside of your pumpkins glow, no need to worry about lighting a candle. Don’t forget when it is time to get rid of your pumpkins use them as compost. If you choose to paint your pumpkin instead of carving it cut it open when all the festivities and consider using it to make pumpkin pies, bread or even muffins, what a great prep for Thanksgiving. My favorite is roasting the yummy pumpkin seeds as a treat. A little sea salt or honey will make a treat both you and your kids can enjoy. Last who could forget the candy? As with most food these days the easiest solution to going green with candy is to buy organic and also chocolates that are fair grade certified. Many times you can find homemade candy at local farmers markets which helps the local economy and is not only usually better quality but tends to have much less packaging to worry about.

Speaking of packaging, try your best to buy the candies with the least amount therefore creating less waste, there is even some that is made of recyclable material. There is no way to avoid taking home some packaging so a great idea for these would be to get creative. You can make picture frames, purses, jewelry and more, if it can be done with duct tape why not candy wrappers. To help create less waste try handing out only 1 piece of candy per kid vs. a whole handful.  Every kid loves tattoos, bubbles and even that loose change that you have lying around why not pass these out instead of the candy. While it may not be the most popular item in the candy bag an apple is great or healthy snacks are also an option. Not only will this make you feel better about what the kids are getting, many times it is easier on your wallet as well. Halloween is meant to be enjoyed, but somewhere in between “planning” and “cleanup,” many parents find themselves feeling overwhelmed. It might seem that attempting to consider the Earth while planning a great ghoulish party is just too much work and way too expensive. Some fear it might even zap the fun right out of the day. But creating an eco-savvy Halloween doesn’t have to be scary, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg so go out and enjoy the night.

Happy Halloween

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Topics: Green Ideas, Fun Green Articles, Holiday

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