There are many things to consider when using commercial solar light systems for any project. First and foremost, not all solar lights are created equal and there is definitely no “one size fits all” solution. Due to sun hour differences in different parts of the world as well as needs for every project can be completely different, utilizing these five tools and working with a qualified solar lighting specialist will ensure your commercial solar lighting project be a successful one.
1. Google Earth
Where is your project located? The first thing to figure out is where exactly is the solar lighting systems going to be installed. One of the best tools is to use Google Earth to see the exact location to learn about any obstacles that could create a problem, such as shading from nearby trees or buildings. It is also used to determine rough estimates of the size area that will be lit.
The next thing to do is find out the number of sun hours available in your project’s location. Since each system is built for worst-case scenario, you need to look at the sun hours available in the winter. Since you size a project to run flawlessly when there is little sun, and then in the summer the system will have no issues at all. NREL is a great place to start this process.
AutoCAD can be a great tool to get exact dimensions as well as terrain and other pertinent information for a project. The file can also be uploaded into a lighting engineering software to show a more detailed layout of the project including light levels (see 5). AutoCAD also allows for finding obstacles that may not be visible on Google Earth. This is not a requirement for every project, but a very helpful tool.
4. Wind Load Calculations
Do you live in a hurricane zone area? What type of wind load requirements are in your area? Making sure to let your solar lighting specialist know of specific requirements will ensure that your system is still functioning after a natural disaster. There are many steps a reputable commercial solar lighting company can take when they know the wind load requirements to ensure the durability of the system.
5. Lighting Engineering Software
Finally, lighting analysts software is the last step in any lighting design for solar. Using the above tools along with other project specifications given by the designer or end user will be brought together in the lighting analysts software. The software provides project specific information such as luminance in either foot-candles or lux depending on the type of requirement needed as well as a visual rendering of what to expect after the installation is completed.
Not going through any of the steps above is a good sign you are being sold a “one size fits all” system that is not guaranteed to operate to its fullest nor meet customer requirements year around. These types of systems may cost less, but will cost more in the end by having to replace parts or the entire system due to failures and not meeting the requirements set forth in the beginning of the project.