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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Why Solar Power and LED Lighting Makes a Perfect Combination

Posted by SEPCO

7/31/12 9:30 AM

SolarPowerandLEDLightWith an increasing emphasis on sustainable energy, we are starting to focus a lot more on where our energy dollars are going and the implications they will have in the future. However, there are so many aspects of energy consumption that need to be addressed that the current focus on the big picture often prevents us from addressing our energy situation one step at a time.

If we break down our energy consumption, we find that lighting is one of our biggest issues not only because of the amount of light we require daily, but also because of the inefficiency of our current lighting solutions. It’s time to realize that traditional light sources aren’t cutting it anymore and move forward to more efficient and sustainable long term solutions.

One such solution that has been gaining a significant amount of attention recently combines the sustainable benefits of solar power with the energy efficiency of LED lighting. So what makes solar power and LED lighting the perfect combination? Let’s dig a bit deeper into the technologies behind them to find out.

The Efficiency of Solar Power

The sheer nature of solar power makes it a near perfect solution for any outdoor lighting application from parking lots to street lights. Outdoor lighting is typically only needed during the night, which leaves the daytime for obtaining solar energy that can then be converted to electrical power and used in powering our light sources overnight.

The Efficiency of LED Lighting

There are two main benefits of LED lighting when it comes to increasing efficiency and cutting costs. The first is that LEDs use far less energy than any previous lighting option, helping to curb energy consumption significantly. Secondly, the efficiency of LED lighting requires them to be replaced far less frequently, saving on maintenance expenses.

The Power of Both

The benefits of solar power could be totally negated if implemented with inefficient lighting technologies. That’s what makes the combination of solar power and LED lighting one that has been gaining so much attention. Because LED lighting requires far less energy than any lighting source that has been used previously, it doesn’t require overwhelming amounts of solar power. Making the switch to solar power and LED lighting is definitely an investment, but moving toward a sustainable and efficient energy future doesn’t come without a price tag. When it comes to curbing our consumption in efficient and sustainable ways, solar power and LED is definitely an option worth considering.

Stephanie Sundheimer writes on behalf of an LED lighting manufacturer based in Michigan. EMP LED Lighting provides Departments of Transportation nationwide with energy efficient lighting solutions for roadways, parking lots and interstates.
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Topics: Solar Lighting, Guest Post, LED Lighting

How Can Eco Lighting Save the World?

Posted by SEPCO

7/26/12 9:30 AM

Okay, well that might be a long shot, but eco lighting has tons of benefits and can not only lower your power usage in the home or office, it can do so much more. Eco lighting, or eco-friendly lighting as it is sometimes called, is being phased in while older, non-eco lighting is being phased out. Here is a great video I found at Inhabitat that explains it all.

http://youtu.be/xn8cHADwRkA

As the video states, old incandescent light bulbs are being phased out over the next three years. I’ve already changed out my light bulbs to CFL’s, but now that LED’s are becoming main stream, I can’t wait to change them over to LED’s. With more color options, no mercury, longer life and lower wattages needed for the same light; LED’s will definitely be the go to option.

So eco lighting may not be able to save the world all on its own, but it is a step in the right direction. Lowering power consumption in the home or office, or even on the streets, will in turn lower the need for non-renewable energy sources. This in turn will reduce the amount of energy required by renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. If we cut the amount of energy needed for lighting by 10% or more, the amount of renewable energy is that much less and the cost of installing is lower. Sounds like a win-win to me. What do you think?

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Topics: General Lighting, Clean Energy

Decorative Solar Lamp Post Lights on Salerno Road

Posted by SEPCO

7/24/12 9:30 AM

LondonFixtureCloseupIn August of 2010, the Martin County Traffic Division contacted Solar Electric Power Company (SEPCO) requesting a solution for a particular lighting application.  In the recent past, the county had constructed a traffic circle on Salerno Road at the entrance to Indian River State College.  The Traffic Division was worried that the newly constructed traffic circle would present an unexpected obstacle for nighttime drivers.  There was virtually no lighting on the stretch of road involved; and there had never been any traffic lights, stop signs, or other traffic control devices present at that point on Salerno Road.  A nighttime driver, who had not recently been on the same road during the daytime, could easily be unaware and crash into the traffic circle.

The Traffic Division decided the perfect solution to the problem would be to install lights at each end of the traffic circle in order make the obstacle more visible.  There was only one problem, the traffic circle was located in the middle of the road and lacked any electrical infrastructure.  In order to install conventional electric lighting, the county would have had to dig up parts of their newly paved road.  The perfect solution was to install solar lamp post lights. The electrical grid is not required for this type of lighting, since the power source is located on or adjacent to the light pole.

SolarLampPostLightThe Traffic Division requested that the new solar lights closely match a certain style of light already installed throughout parts of the county.  The existing lights were a post top fixture with fluted pole and decorative base.  The lights were painted a green color imitating the look of aged copper.  SEPCO contacted their fixture partner Beacon Products, a division of Hubbell Lighting.  Beacon Products recommended the London post top fixture powder-coated the color Old World Copper.  This light was a very close approximation to the existing lights.

Finally, the Traffic Division stated the desire to keep the light poles as clean as possible and requested the solar power assembly be mounted beside the light pole on a separate pole.  The final product consisted of two 17 Watt LED London fixtures mounted onto a single fluted pole with decorative base and a separate shorter pole with a 170 Watt solar electric power assembly.  One of these assemblies was installed at each end of the traffic circle.  The result was an attractive lighting solution providing nighttime drivers the ability to see a possibly unexpected obstacle.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, SEPCO News & Information

Maintaining the Right Heat in Your Greenhouses

Posted by SEPCO

7/19/12 9:30 AM

GreenhouseMini Greenhouse kits have made life much easier for horticulturists because of their ease of use and their flexibility. Just buying the right greenhouse, however, does not resolve the adequate heating requirements of plants.

The greenhouse should have proper heating as it is not only essential for flourishing growing plants but also for their wellbeing. You could grow all your favorite seasonal vegetables irrespective of the season if you get the hang of perfect heating. The following points will be helpful in this regard –

  1. Insulating Your Greenhouse – Heating would not work, if your greenhouse is not insulated. You need to ensure that the mini greenhouse suppliesyou buy have dual walled polycarbonate panels so that heat does not escape. Bubble wrapping walls provides double protection against any chances of the heat escaping. Get your frames insulated properly before the nights start getting cold so that your investment in a good heater doesn’t become a useless wastage.
  1. Number Of BTUs Needed – BTU is a measurement of heat and the number of BTUs your greenhouse needs depend largely on the climatic conditions of the area, size of your greenhouse and the kind of plants you are keeping. Calculate your BTU requirement and choose a heater that falls within the said range. Heating less than required is bad but overheating is also disastrous in terms of wastage and plant health. It would also be advisable to install a thermometer to monitor the temperature range.
  1. Choosing the Right Heater– There are many types of heaters like paraffin, gas and electric greenhouse heaters that are available in the market. The kind of heater you choose depends on the size of your greenhouse and your BTU requirements. Also, there are heaters with and without vents. Usually, for a mini greenhouse, a non-vented heater will work perfectly but if you grow delicate plants like orchids, then vented heaters would be necessary. Cost considerations could also affect the kind of heater you choose.
  1. Other Heating Options – There are some age-old tricks that horticulturists use when they want to avoid heaters. These are affordable methods to maintain temperature in your greenhouse. One could be to create a circle with water filled buckets that have the inner side painted white and outer side painted black. They will ensure that heat is reflected throughout the greenhouse till night arrives.

Rabbits could also be added to the greenhouse as they would provide some natural fertilizer and also keep the greenhouse warm. Using Cold Frames Greenhouses is also a good solution to retain the heat from the sunlight during the day to keep the plants warm in cold nights.  

Mini Greenhouse Kits usually involve less cost as compared to and are good practice if you want to go growing on a larger scale in the near future.

Author: B. Lyttle is a keen gardener and an enthusiastic believer of frugal living ways. She loves the idea of using greenhouses for saving money and has been using them since the past 5 years now.  

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Topics: Guest Post, Fun Green Articles

GovEnergy 2012 St. Louis Cancelled

Posted by SEPCO

7/17/12 9:30 AM

Sales professionals know and understand that part of their job includes traveling to conferences and shows. We usually look at the calendar and plan our life, families, and vacations, around these conferences. We have come to see them as a necessary evil in order to promote products for small business, to have brand awareness, and get demonstrations of new products in front of the customers. 

I looked at the calendar and had seen that the next conference coming up is GovEnergy in St. Louis, MO.  My first thought quickly thinks of the lost times I will share with my kids, the date falls right on the first week of kindergarten for my son.  I think of the sadness I will feel not being here for him, but the optimist that I am, I know he will do fine for a couple of days without mommy. 

My joy then turns to think of all of the opportunities that will arise at the conference.  A dinner meeting with our partner company to kick off GovEnergy at one of my favorite local Irish Restaurants and Pubs called Mc Gurks in St. Louis.  I envision the city skyline, the Mighty Mississippi River and the Famous Arch.  I review in my head a list of existing government customers I would like to make sure to meet with.  I look over the great technical symposium that they have put together for this year.  I start to think about all of the great opportunities to market and sell products that I love, and that at the same time help my family survive while also helping the economy and the federal government and the environment to lower the energy consumption from foreign oils, etc.  This brings me great joy and I love my profession.  It would have been my 10 year anniversary attending the GovEnergy Conference.  I look forward to it every year.

GovEnergy2012Cancelled

This morning I get into my office and start to look through my emails that I let build up over the weekend while spending quality time with my children.  I see a note from an existing customer—“GovEnergy is Cancelled” with the typical connotation of a frownL in text.  I quickly replied, what do you mean, your agency is not attending? Do they not have the budget for the show?  While I was awaiting a reply another co-worker forwarded an email from a GSA staff member stating that official letters have not yet been released but that GovEnergy is indeed “postponed”.   It must be true, I called MC2 and they confirmed that it is true.  Sadness filled my body and I started to think of the lost opportunities this offers my family, my business, many other businesses, and the local economy of St. Louis.

I am not sure that I have come to terms with it as I sit here and write about it.  A conference that has been such a staple in my career has been canceled.  As much as I try again to reverse my mood and be optimistic and think of being here for my son on his first week of Kindergarten, I can’t seem to kick the disappointment.  I would like to know if you have attended GovEnergy in the past and what is it about the conference this year that you will miss. 

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Topics: Energy Show

5 Renewable Energy and Green Earth Blogs You Need To Read

Posted by SEPCO

7/12/12 9:30 AM

I go through a lot of renewable energy blogs to keep updated on information going on in the world. Here is a list of the top 5 renewable energy blogs to read for great information and why I like them.

 

EarthTechlingEarthTechling writes not only about renewable energy, but other green practices for your home or business. They provide news and information as well as how to's and events that are going on in your area. EarthTechling also reviews products that are released to give some great information on how well they work. Finally, EarthTechling provides comprehensive buying guides to find the best solution to your needs.

 

SmartPlanetSmartPlanet has a ton of useful information. From ways to make your business be more green to what is going on in the renewable energy world. Their is even a section on green technologies that includes health care practices. Their innovations section provides information on new technologies that are surfacing. They even have a great video section for those who like to learn through videos. On of my personal favs for videos is the Future of Solar Cells.

 

RenewableEnergyWorldRenewable Energy World comes in print and online format. They provide information in all five sections of the renewable world: Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Bioenergy, and Hydropower. There is also a great mix of news articles and blogs written by people that provide great insights to the renewable energy industry. Finally, you can submit your own blog posts by signing up with their site and get your own information viewed by people.

 

InhabitatInhabitat provides information not only the renewable energy industry, but great information on living and building green, green technologies, transportation, and tons of other great articles. This site is filled with great videos and picture galleries to help anyone find a green alternative to just about every application. One of my personal favorites is how Inhabitat shows you how to repurpose just about everything from bookcases to airplanes.

 

FriendsoftheEarthFriends of the Earth is a great place to find out about causes going on worldwide and how you can get involved. Not only do they strive to inform people of what is going on in the green industries, they have great information on getting involved and making a difference.

 
 

These are just five of my favorites. Do you have any to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below. We'd love to check them out! 

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Topics: Fun Green Articles

5 Reasons Your Off-Grid Solar Lighting Fails and How to Fix It

Posted by SEPCO

7/10/12 9:30 AM

Whether you purchase large off-grid commercial solar light systems or smaller off-grid  home solar light systems, there are generally only a handful of reasons these lights will fail.  Hopefully after reading this list you will be able safeguard your off-grid solar lights against failure thus ensuring many, many years of trouble-free operation.

1. Solar Panel is Located in the Shade

Shading is very bad for your solar panels. Solar panels use sunlight to gather energy that is stored in the battery to power the light fixture at night. Shade prevents maximum amounts of sunlight from going through to the solar panel which in turn severely inhibits the solar panel’s power production capabilities which in turn has an adverse effect on your off-grid solar light system.  Seems simple, but you would be amazed at how many off-grid solar lights we have seen installed under a bush, tree, or some other obstruction that shades the solar panel.

SolarLight2. Light is Located Above the Solar Panel

The charge within the solar panel is what lets the system controller know when it is dusk and thus time to turn the light fixture on.  If the light fixture is installed above the solar panel, the system controller will think it is daytime and shut off the light fixture.  As such, the solar panel needs to be installed above the light source or in a remote location away from the light fixtures.

3. Solar Panel Doesn’t Face the Correct Direction

Since the sun moves from east to west in North America, the optimum amount of sun is collected when the panels are facing South. If solar panel is not facing South, its sunlight harvesting and power production capability will be severely inhibited—thus negatively impact off-grid solar light system performance.

4. Solar Light or Panel is Undersized for the Job

A high quality off-grid solar light system is designed using a meticulous combination of calculations revolving around light fixture power consumption, load, solar insolation (based on geographic location of project) and autonomous battery storage to name a few.  If any of these calculations are not performed properly, the net result will be a poorly design system that is suspect to failure.

5. Lamps or Batteries Need to be Changed

The only scheduled maintenance required for a high quality off-grid solar lighting system is a) light fixture lamp change and b) battery change.  The typical life expectancy of a CFL lamp is 20,000+ hours while high performance LED lamps are rated to last well beyond 100,000+ hours.  The battery life expectancy within a properly designed off-grid solar lighting system is 5-7 years.   If the system is not operating properly—and the solar panels are facing South and are not shaded and the system calculations/design are done properly,  chances are high that its either time to replace the lamp of the batteries.

By making sure your solar lights are installed properly will ensure many, many years of reliable operation for any application. What other reasons do you think solar lights typically fail?

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Topics: Solar Lighting

Solar Power Street Light Design: Step by Step

Posted by SEPCO

7/5/12 9:30 AM

Solar Power Street LightEver wonder how solar powered street light projects are designed? Here is a step by step guide.

Step 1 – Find area in need of street lights

The first thing to figure out is the length of road in need of street lights. This can be a small entrance road only a couple hundred of feet long to miles of streets through an area. Does the area currently have any type of lighting available? What is the reason for needing street lights in this area?

Step 2 – Find out if electric is available

Is the electrical grid already nearby or would you need to call in the power company to bring in electrical lines? If the electric needs to be brought to the area, how much is this going to cost? Depending on how far the grid electric is from the location of the needed lighting, this can be quite expensive.

Step 3 – Determine the lighting requirements

How much lighting is needed on the street? Do the lights need to be dark sky compliant? Do the street lights need to run from dusk to dawn or for only a specified number of hours at night? Are the street lights able to dim in the middle of the night and still provide enough lighting? These questions need to be answered before you can decide on how many lights you will need to complete the project.

Step 4 – Find all alternatives

Solar power street lights are an option to traditional electrical lights. Solar street lights do not need the electrical grid to be brought in as they are self-contained units that provide their own electric. LED street light fixtures provide the best lighting solution by using lower amounts of power, better optics, dimming features where needed, and cost less in an overall solution.

Step 5 – Contact companies for quotes

The last step after gathering the above information is to contact 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.

If you take your time, do your research, and gather needed requirements, your next street 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, General Lighting, Street Lighting

How to Size Off Grid Solar Power Systems Like a Pro

Posted by SEPCO

7/3/12 9:30 AM

NAS Jacksonville

Solar power sizing can be tricky. You have to figure out how many solar panels it will take to run your application while also keeping costs down. Here is how you can size your off grid solar power system to perform year round under any condition the world wants to throw at you.

First thing you need to do is figure out your load. How much energy (amps) is needed in a single day to power whatever it is you need to power (home, business, camera, light, etc.). This can be found by looking at the specifications of the item or following a chart of usage over time. For this example: let’s say your application draws 2.08 Amps and it runs 24 hours a day. This would require a total of 50 Amp hours per day. This number can change depending on the number of run hours your system actually requires.

Second thing is what is the amperage of the solar panel you want to use? This can be found on the solar panel specification page. You then take the total amps provided by a single solar panel and multiply it by the number of sun hours available in your area. Make sure to look at the worst month (December for above the equator). This information is available on NREL's Photovoltaic Solar Resource Map. Once you have figured out this you can start to figure out how many panels you will need to run your system reliably. For this example we will use 4 sun hours with a panel that produces 5 amps per hour.

Basically, if you need 50 Amp hours per day to run your application and you have a total of 4 sun hours available, you need a total of 15 amps (adding 20% overage) provided by your solar power system, or in this case 3 solar panels at 5 amps each. This also gives you a much needed overage for times of less than 4 hours sun. Seems easy so far, but there is a little more.

Battery backup is what you need for an off grid solar application. Making sure you have enough battery storage is essential for cloudy / stormy days. If you need a total of 50 Amp hours for a single day, making sure you have adaquate days storage will help get you through those not so sunny days. Multiply the total Amp hours by the desired days of storage, we recommend 4 – 5 days storage to ensure reliability and long term performance. 50 Amp hours times 5 days equals 250 amp hours which will power the applicaton for 5 full 24 hour days with zero sun.

Well that's about it. If you make sure you have enough solar to create 50 amps of energy every day and a battery system that holds 250 amp hours total, your system will not run out of power and will run reliably for years.

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Topics: Solar Power, Clean Energy

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