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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

The Evolution of Solar Technology - Infographic

Posted by SEPCO

9/29/11 9:30 AM

A lot of people think that solar power is a new technology; however, it has been around for quite some time now. The infographic below shows exactly that.

The photovoltaic effect was first found by Alexandre Becquerel in 1839, almost 200 years ago. It only took about 60 years for the first solar cell to be patented by Melvin Severy even though the first solar cell was created by Aleksandr Stoletov.

Moving on through the industrial age Albert Einstein published the first paper on the photovoltaic effect in 1904, but it wasn't till 1959 that Hoffman Electronics created a 10% efficient solar cell and could finally tie the solar into the grid.

Pushing forward into the space age, the first manned solar spacecraft was Soyuz 1 in 1967 by Russia followed by the US Skylab in 1973.

President Obama isn't the first president to push for solar power on the White House, President Carter also installed solar power on the White House and started to promote incentives for solar. This had a good effect as by 1983 the photovoltaic production exceeded 21.3 Megawatts.

NREL was the next thing to be implemented by a president involving photovoltaics in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush, and before the turn of the centrury the worldwide installed solar power reached 1000 Megawatts.

Finally in 2004 California Governor Schwarzenegger proposed the Solar Roofs Initiative. This is well on its way making California one of the greenest states in the US. President Obama is now working towards getting solar panels back on the roof of the White House.

So solar has actually been around for quite some time, but it took time to hit the main stream. Now, with governors, presidents, NREL, and many other organizations working together, becoming grid free isn't that far off.

History of Solar Technology

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Topics: Green Ideas, Solar Power, Infographics

Solar for Temporary Lighting and Power

Posted by SEPCO

9/27/11 9:30 AM

Solar is a great option for anyone wanting to go green, but some forget that the solar can be used as a temporary option during development. Since solar lights do not require grid extensions, the lights are completely movable from one location to the next without trenching or grid extension. Two projects show exactly that.

Coral Springs Solar Street Lights

City of Coral Springs have used our solar lights during implementation of neighborhoods. Instead of leaving everyone in the dark during building, they installed solar street lights on the neighborhood roadways. These lights keep the new buildings safe from vandalism while also protecting the people currently living in the area. Once the neighborhood is complete, and traditional lights are ready to be installed, the solar lights can be moved to a new location to provide the same security they did at the previous location.

Port of LA Solar Perimeter Lights

The Port of Los Angeles used our solar lights on the perimeter of a cruise ship terminal boarding area during development of the terminal. These lights provided security for both the cruise ship personnel and travelers getting ready to depart. The lights have since been moved to illuminate a walkway in the nearby area.

Next time you are requiring temporary lighting, think of solar as a green alternative. The lights can be reused in other locations or for other applications if they are not a permanent structure. Or maybe there will be a change of heart and the lights will stay there permanently; no telling.

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Topics: Solar Lighting

Control Options for Solar Lighting Systems

Posted by SEPCO

9/22/11 9:30 AM

Parking Lot Day

So you want to install solar lights, but you don’t need them to run all night. There are many options to control your solar lights to not only peak efficiency, but also allow for specific lighting during times of need. SEPCO offers a wide range of solar lighting control electronics to do just that.

Dusk to dawn is the most popular. The light does exactly what someone would think; it comes on at dusk and turns off at dawn. This draws the most amount of power as the light must run all night, up to 15 hours in some areas. This is the best option for solar street lights and solar parking lot lights.

If the solar light only needs to run for a certain number of hours per night, there are options such as dusk for a number of hours, actual time frames with the real time clock, or for dusk for a few hours and back on just before dawn. There are also options for turning on the light only when the area is occupied through a passive infrared sensor or spring loaded switch. Best practices for this application would be for solar sign lights, solar park lights, and solar pathway lights.

Switches can be used to turn the light on and off either with a spring loaded timer, a button that when pressed turns on the light for a set time, or passive infra-red detectors. The lights that would utilize this type of configuration would include solar restroom facilities, solar bus stops, solar mailbox clusters, and solar pavillion lights.

Finally, a technology now being utilized is dimming of solar lights. An LED light can run at full power for part of the night, and then dim down when traffic is down. The solar lights can also have an option to go back to full power if a sensor is activated. This option is becoming more widely used as it lowers the needed power for a large light to run all night when the light output at midnight is probably different than at 9 pm. Dimming options are best used for solar parking lot lights, solar street lights, and solar pathway lights.

So next time you are looking into lighting, especially solar lighting, find out exactly what your needs are. We can offer a wide range of options to lower the power needs while helping you achieve a green image by installing solar lighting.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting

Location Location Location: Why Shading is Bad for Solar Systems

Posted by SEPCO

9/20/11 9:30 AM

Lighthouse Point Solar Light

Shade is a wonderful thing, especially in the summer; however it is bad for off-grid solar power and solar lighting applications because shading robs the solar panels of its peak energy production capacity, which in turn has an adverse affect on overall system performance. Therefore, when scouting installation locations for off-grid solar powered lights and/or solar power systems, the key is to find an area that has no shading. If the needed light or powered application is located in the shade, the solar can be remotely installed and the device can be located where it is needed.

Shading issues are not always immediately apparent given the sun’s path during different times of year. Shade from trees, poles, buildings, and many other obstructions can seriously diminish the performance of solar systems.  Summer months have the sun in the highest point in the sky. However, in the winter months, the sun is lower, and if not taken into account during installation, the sun path can cause shading issues.

Lighthouse Point Solar Light

If desired installation location is hampered by shading issues, note that the solar power system can be remotely located in a non-shaded area and simply wired to the power or lighting application.  If trees are presenting a shading issue, in many cases simply trimming the trees back will eliminate the problem altogether. If buildings are what are blocking the solar from receiving full sun, install the solar on the roof of the building to maximize the efficiency.

Shade causes the solar not to absorb enough solar energy during the day to fill the batteries for use at night. Even small amounts of shade can have a great impact on the performance of the system. Making sure the solar panels face south and are not blocked by any obstructions is key to getting the most out of your solar panels.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Power, Installation

Energy Efficiency around the World (Infographic) Clean Technica

Posted by SEPCO

9/15/11 9:30 AM

I came across this infographic in my readings and wanted to share it with my readers. The information shows how much the world wants renewable energy to become the new standard. Now we all need to get to work on making that standard a reality. What are your thoughts on the information?
energy efficiency infographicReference: Clean Technica
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Topics: Green Ideas, Infographics

Solar Parking Lot Security and Wildlife Enhancement

Posted by SEPCO

9/13/11 7:30 AM

Kona Airport Solar Parking Lot Lighting

SEPCO recently completed a solar parking lot lighting project for the Kona Airport in Hawaii. These systems consisted of solar power assemblies to power dark sky approved low pressure sodium light fixtures required by a lighting ordinance for the telescopes at the nearby observatory. Instead of traditional electric low pressure sodium lights, SEPCO was able to offer an immediate cost feasible, solar powered green alternative. This helps the airport save on utility costs while also helping to preserve the beautiful Hawaiian environment.

Solar Parking Lot Lights Kona Airport

The 32 systems are installed on multiple long term parking lot areas. They are sized to run dusk to dawn, through five days of inclement weather. Every system features vandal and theft resistant battery placement and are rated for 150 mph wind load ratings. The systems provide security for travelers returning on late flights to proceed to their vehicles, while minimizing effects on local wildlife such as sea turtles and birds such as the shearwater, by reducing light pollution by using cutoff optics and the 55 Watt low pressure sodium lamp.

Airport Parking Lot Solar Lights

While SEPCO mass produces solar power assemblies for multiple applications, these assemblies can be configured to provide remote power to many different lighting and power requirements. SEPCO used the Hubbell Lighting Oakland fixture for this project in conjunction with our solar power assemblies.

SEPCO's technical and engineering experience in the industry positions SEPCO as a leader in the solar lighting market by offering multiple technologies to adapt to customer's and environmental needs of each project. SEPCO can use lighting technologies such as Light Emitting Diode (LED), Compact Fluorescent (CFL), Induction, High Pressure Sodium, Low Pressure Sodium, HID, and Plasma. SEPCO is also able to meet high light level requirements for roadways, parking lots, and security applications with various operating profiles through wireless controls.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, SEPCO News & Information, Parking Lot Lighting

6 Reasons LED Lights Are Becoming the Go To Option

Posted by SEPCO

9/8/11 9:30 AM

LED Lights


LED Lightsare gaining popularity for many reasons. Here is a quick rundown of what makes them the go to option.

1.  LED lamps last longer than any other lamp on the market. Their typical life expectancy is over 50,000 hours. This means less cost for lamp changes and less time left in the dark.

2.  LEDs use less electricity and run on DC power. This makes LEDs the go to option for solar powered lighting systems as there is no converter needed. For standard lighting applications the converter is built into the lamp so no extra parts are required to run the lamp.

3.  Color options are endless with LED lights since the LEDs themselves can be colored for the specific needs of the user. No filters are required to get the color required for any project.

4.  Applications vary from strand lights to bulb shaped lights and everywhere in between. Small solar LED lights can be used in the garden to provide ambient lighting for pathways or social gathering areas. They can also be used in a large number for commercial uses such as for buildings, streets, and signs.

5.  LED lights are safer as they contain no murcury like fluorescent lamps, have no glass tubes that can break, and are resistant to vibrations and impact.

6.  LED lamps can be fitted into any fixture. Lamps are becoming redily available for household use and can be fitted from small to large, round to square, and thin long fixtures.

So LED lamps, whether for solar or standard electricity, are becoming the best option.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting, LED Lighting

Commercial vs Non-Commercial Solar Lights

Posted by SEPCO

9/6/11 9:30 AM

So a solar light is a solar light…right? Not really. There are many different types using many different types of technologies. The solar lights you find at your local home improvement stores are much different then the ones being manufactured for commercial applications. And depending on what the customer wants to spend on a system, the variations can be great.

Commercial Solar Lighting

Solar Parking Lot Lighting

Solar lights that are in production for commercial applications such as roadways, billboards, parking lots, etc. have a higher up front cost but they will pay for themselves almost immediately. These systems provide lighting for specific applications with different clock settings. They also provide many days of stored power to provide continuous reliability.

The light power is different as well. Each system is built for the type and wattage lamp that will be utilized for that specific application. Lighting a billboard will take much more power then lighting a small pathway which is also different from roadway and parking lot applications. That makes the commercially manufactured solar lights more versatile.

Non-Commercial Solar Lighting

Solar Garden Lights

The solar lights you can purchase at your local home improvement store are much different. There is still battery storage, but it is small and only has enough power from the amount of sun it received that day. If there is a cloudy day, the lights will not last as long. For example, I have solar powered rope lights on my back patio. These lights will work from dusk to dawn all night as long as there is enough sun during the day. On rainy and cloudy days they turn off after about 5 hours or less. They also do not provide enough light to even read from; just a faint glow from the 20 LEDs in the rope. 

If you are lighting up a driveway or walkway just for markers or environment lighting, these work perfect. If the project requires more lighting for security or large applications, commercially manufactured solar lights are the way to go.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting

3 Steps to Help You Find Out if Solar Lighting is Right for You

Posted by SEPCO

9/1/11 9:30 AM

Nueces County Courthouse

Solar lighting provides a great alternative to traditional electrical lights. They can be installed anywhere as long as the solar panel has direct access to sunlight. Here are three easy steps to see if solar lighting is your best alternative for lighting just about anything.

1. Is there electric already available?

There may or may not be electric already available in the area needing to be lit up. If there is electrical, great, then you have two options; however, if there is no electric available, then the cost of trenching and adding the needed electric should be considered. Solar lights, because of their nature, can be installed anywhere. The solar panel must have direct access to sunlight, but the lights can be placed just about anywhere, even in shaded areas. The cost of trenching and bringing electric out to some sites can be very costly and solar is a great alternative then adding those unnecessary expenses.

2. What are the required lighting levels?

In today’s industry, lighting can be a faint glow just for mood, or bright enough to read under, and all types of lighting can range from one end of the spectrum to the other. Personally, I have solar LED strand lights on my back porch for mood lighting which are powered by solar that provide just a soft warm glow for atmosphere. Other applications can be for street or parking lot lighting. Solar lights can be a great alternative in replacing already installed lights for a lower overall electric bill or installed in a new application where a green alternative is high on the list.

3. Are you looking for a green alternative?

Solar lights provide a green alternative to traditional lighting applications. Solar lights are separate from the grid, produce no greenhouse gases, and provide lighting even if the electric fails for any reason. They are completely self sufficient and require little to no maintenance.

So next time you are in the market looking for lighting options, look at solar lighting. From commercial applications such as parking lots, roadways, and signs; to smaller applications like gardens, driveways, and atmospheric lighting, solar provides a great alternative.

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Topics: Solar Lighting

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