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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green


SEPCO is the worldwide leader in solar lighting and off grid solar power systems. We are helping the world go green by taking the lights off the grid.

Recent Posts

Why Trench When You Can Use Solar Lighting Systems?

Posted by SEPCO

10/5/15 10:00 AM

Trenching Equipment For Non Solar Lighting ApplicationsOne of the largest costs associated with new lighting projects is the cost of trenching in the electric from the main source. Trenching not only costs more, but it tears up the surrounding area and damages landscaping, structures, and pathways. This can be the most costly part of a lighting project since all surrounding areas now need to be repaired.


Why not go solar instead and redistribute the money used for expensive trenching and put it into a renewable resource with an actual payback?


Many times, the lighting is the last part of a project such as parking lots, roadways, signs, and many other projects. Once the lighting needs are discovered, trenching of the power is needed to provide power to the new lights. Imagine trenching through a new parking lot, tearing up all that freshy poured concrete just to bring in power lines. Not only does it cost for the equipment, but also repairing the damages to the parking lot, installing of the new lights, and now you have to pay the electric company every month for the electricity used by the fixtures.


Instead, solar lights are completely self-contained and installed at the top of the pole. The solar panel feeds the battery assembly during the day and the lighting controller turns on the light at dusk, drawing its power from the solar charged battery, for whatever operating profile is needed for the application. All the wiring is located at the top of the pole and therefore no trenching is required. The only installation required is the pole, which can leave the surrounding area undisturbed. And after a few short years, the lights start paying for themselves since there are no electrical costs associated with solar lights. Best of all, the low maintenance factor of solar lighting systems will allow for years of operation with no need to hire someone to come out and change out the lamps, photocells, etc. The only maintenance is the battery replacement, which if sized correctly, should be every 5+ years.


With solar costs going down and solar panel efficiency going up, going solar is becoming more popular. LEDs are becoming more efficient, providing more lighting than ever before, and have a life expecancy typically of 20+ years. Using solar lighting systems is starting to become more and more popular while becoming smaller and lower cost. So why trench...use solar light systems instead.


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Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2013 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Lighting Design, Installation

Adaptable Solar Sign Lighting Systems

Posted by SEPCO

9/28/15 10:00 AM

Businesses use them. So do HOAs. Even some directional signs are put in place to provide information. With all this information being hidden at night with no illumination, how do you light all the signs? Well, if there is electric, this is easy; however, what if there is no electric nearby? This could complicate things. 

Solar sign lighting systems are able to adapt to a wide variety of applications. From small marker signs to large billboards, from internally illuminated to flood illuminated, almost every sign lighting system can be powered by solar. Here are some of the ways solar can quickly and easily adapt.


Ranch Winery Small Flood Sign LightSmall Flood

Small signs can use our FL-AB fixture, typically up to a 5’ x 5’ sign. These low powered fixtures are great for these smaller signs and are very cost effective, typically not requiring much solar or battery backup and still providing a reliable, long life system.




Morain Valley Large Flood Sign Light

Medium / Large Floods

The ALF – Architectural Flood and the ARF Medium Flood are used for signs over 5’ and provide a bit more lighting. The ALF provides great lighting at still a low wattage while the ARF can range from quite a high wattage, 53 Watts to be exact, to almost as low as the ALF.




SRD Solar Billboard Light Multiple Floods

Billboard Floods

Grouping multiple ARF fixtures together allows for even more illumination on a sign, or provides great lighting on a billboard. Single and double sided billboards all can be powered by solar using the ARF flood fixtures. Typically, two to six floods are powered by a single large power assembly, and depending on the application, operation schedules, and other information, will help determine exactly what is required and the configuration that will be used. There are many ways to shine a light with these two types of fixtures. And while you are at it, check out our Billboard Case Study.


City of Knoxville Internal Sign Light

Internal Illumination

Internal sign lights can be illuminated in many different ways. We use SloanLED products and provide a great combination of option to use in conjunction with our solar power assemblies. Most internal signs use the SignBOX, PosterBOX or VL Plus series and we can provide a custom layout to illuminate exactly the area required with your internal sign.


So what’s next? Check out some additional articles that can help you determine what you need. Solar Power Sign Light Design: Step by Step gives you the information required to provide a custom solution, or you can click below and download our free eBook on sign lighting.





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Topics: Solar Lighting, Sign Lighting

Solar Parking Lot Lighting Design: Step by Step

Posted by SEPCO

9/21/15 10:00 AM

Solar Parking Lot Lighting - Midway DodgeWe have gone over street lighting and sign lighting design, I thought it was time we went over parking lot lighting design. Here is your step by step guide.

Step 1 – Determine how large the area is that needs the light

Parking lots range in size and configurations, from a small parking lot at a park to a large area at a mall or office complex. Depending on how spread out the area is, or what obstacles are involved, parking lots need a little more finesse to get the lights in the right places. It is best to have a blueprint of the parking lot, or at least an aerial shot of the parking lot, will help determine the best places to install the lights into the parking lot.

Step 2 – Determine if electric already exists

Many times, parking lots can be installed before any lighting is even thought of. Or there are many cases where existing parking lots have issues with the wiring underground. This causes great concern and will be quite costly to replace since trenching of the parking lot will now occur to either install or repair the electric. Solar parking lot lights help lower costs by avoiding all the work of breaking up and then repairing the foundation of the parking lot, while also providing a faster installation.

Step 3 – Determine lighting requirements and needs

How much illumination is required by your area for parking lots? Do they need to be dark sky compliant? This information needs to be determined at the beginning stages of the design to allow for accurate lighting layouts. Different fixtures provide different lighting distributions and have different throws and BUG – Back / Uplight / Glare ratings. Also knowing how long the lights are required helps determine how much power can be pushed. Operating them only at full intensity when the area is active, and either dimming or turning them off in the middle of the night when there is no one in the area, can lower electrical costs and usages; however, if security is a concern, let your designer know this in advance.

Solar Parking Lot Lights day / night VA TempleStep 4 – Find all alternatives

Solar is a great option to reduce costs over the long term and can provide great alternatives to trenching for standard electrical lights. The solar parking lot lighting systems operate independently from grid power and allows for easy installation in most locations. This is great for new projects or areas where the parking lot has already been poured or where the electrical lines are damaged. If you want to replace your existing electrical lights with solar, check out our article about replacing existing grid lights with a solar lighting retrofit.

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 parking lot 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: Parking Lot Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

How to Camouflage Solar Panels in a Residential Environment

Posted by SEPCO

9/14/15 10:00 AM

When homeowners are first approached about putting solar panels on their house, a number of concerns inevitably pop up, ranging from cost to installation to the appearance on an otherwise unblemished roof. While the first two obstacles are becoming easier by the day, with a bit of advance planning, your solar panels can be made practically invisible from all but the planes passing overhead. 

Perhaps the most obvious route to integrating your solar cells with the natural world is to surround them with existing foliage, while maintaining sun exposure. Consider installing them near the tops of trees or shrubs in the backyard, facing away from the street. 

The cardinal direction of the street as it relates to your house can also make a difference. For maximum sun exposure, solar panels should face south, so if this happens to be the side away from the road, none but the neighbors behind you will see your panels. Also consider using a secondary part of your roof, such as the garage roof, that may be in a more discreet location. 

Another option, recommended by the experts at Solar Power Authority, is to use solar enabled native building materials, such as solar shingles, instead of external panels on the roof of your house. Because solar shingles are specifically designed to blend in with a roof as normal shingles would, they do not stand out in the same way.

Solar lights are also an option for those interested in using solar power on a smaller scale. Because outdoor lamps often draw large amounts of power, this can result in significant savings. These too are often designed to blend in like a conventional lamp would, with the panels hidden directly on the top. 

One recent technological innovation makes hiding solar cells significantly easier. According to Swiss research firm CSEM, cells can now be made without a visible gap, meaning that they can be dyed a pure color or whatever the natural color of their environment. Previously, it was thought that they needed a "join" in between cells connected in series. In practical terms, solar panels can now be built into walls and roofs alike, while remaining indistinguishable from the structure around them. 

When evaluating the best possible place to install your solar panels, it is important to keep perspective on the necessity of hiding them. After all, we once considered power lines an insufferable eyesore, and today we kvetch about the cell phone towers with comically obvious fake branches running down their telephone pole-shaped trunk. Your solar panels can blend in with the environment of your home much more seamlessly, and with all the environmental benefits of the trees they mimic.

Author Bio: Jessica Frazier is a longtime environmental junkie and mind behind SolarPowerAuthority.com When she's not learning and blogging about solar products, she's studying Environmental Engineering at Cal Poly Pomona.

Img: Comfortable Home Design

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Topics: Guest Post, Solar Power

Happy Labor Day

Posted by SEPCO

9/7/15 10:00 AM


Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend. 

Find out more about our national holiday: The History of Labor Day

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Topics: Holiday

Learn About Solar Lighting Retrofit- Replacing Existing Grid Lights

Posted by SEPCO

8/31/15 10:00 AM

 Solar Lighting Retrofit

The constant request to replace grid tied lights with solar powered lighting systems, taking them off grid, makes me step back for a minute. What is the reasoning behind this?

To understand this, we need to look at the three major reasons people use solar lighting systems:

1. There is no grid power currently available or trenching in grid power is costly

2. Current power lines are not operational and require extensive construction to remove current infrastructure to replace

3. The desire for a green alternative / gain LEED points / etc.

When a potential client comes in with a request for a 1 for 1 replacement of their current grid powered lights that are currently operational and want to disconnect the power grid and use stand-alone solar, this is a tough sale and rarely happens.

First off, solar is almost never a 1 for 1 replacement. With the unlimited power available with grid energy, most people don’t pay attention to factors such as lumens per watt, energy efficiency, etc. They think a 300 Watt light is the same across the board and is plenty bright. With solar we meet the same lighting uniformity by lowering the heights of the fixture to get higher levels of lighting on the ground.  Therefore, the same levels can be met with Solar as with grid power but the design, mounting heights, wattages, etc would require different mounting locations and more of them. 

Solar lighting system designers look at projects from the ground up to design a complete system. They look at light level requirements, pole locations, geographic location, and operation profile requirements, etc. We take many factors into account when designing a lighting system or project. This allows us to use a much lower wattage fixture and forces us to provide the best lumens per watt efficiency available.

Second, there is also the added cost of replacing the poles as well.  Solar panels and batteries add weight and a higher foot print to the poles. The grid poles are designed to hold a fixture and not designed structurally for the added materials. Therefore new poles need to also be configured into the cost.

Therefore, if you do not have electrical lines at the site, the currently lines are not operational or hidden under the roadway and if you are looking for a green alternative, want to cut your company’s CO2 emissions, looking to do a complete facility overhaul moving towards solar, or are looking for LEED points, then definitely, look at using solar lighting to replace your existing electrical lights.

If you are looking to cut costs with currently electric lights, look at switching out fixtures to LED fixtures, using much less power than old style HPS lights, and find an efficient fixture. Our partners at Hubbell Outdoor Lighting manufacture fixtures that will meet the needs of your project and the efficiency ratings and performance of their LEDs are top quality.

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Who is Leading the Way in Sustainable Schools?

Posted by SEPCO

8/24/15 10:00 AM

Sustainable Schools Post

Sierra Club recently posted their list of the Top 10 Cool Schools with some great information. They used a scoring key that went into depth of the different practices used to help promote sustainability and green movement initiatives. You can even view the score of all 153 schools they looked at for this list.

Who are the top 10 schools?

10. University of California: Berkeley, CA

9. Lewis & Clark College: Portland, OR

8. University of Washington: Seattle, WA

7. University of California: San Diego, CA

6. University of Connecticut: Storrs, CT

5. Oberlin College: Oberlin, OH

4. Colorado State University: Fort Collins, CO

3. University of Wisconsin: Oshkosh, WI

2. University of California: Davis, CA

1. University of California: Irvine, CA

It isn’t really amazing that the University of California has dominated this list. California, along with a handful of other states, is really driving the green revolution. California has been pushing for more solar, lowering consumption, even installing shade balls in the Los Angeles reservoir to combat the nasty drought they have been experiencing.

California schools have been implementing bicycle friendly solutions, lowering car parking, providing better food options ranging from organic to vegan, lowering water consumption, reducing waste, and working with students on new ways to solve other issues that contribute to global warming. They are really working towards teaching students a new way of thinking and working together to combat one of today’s most prominent issues.

Other schools are starting to follow suit by implementing more green changes to curriculum. Things that stand out is fining students who print too much, implementing renewable sources of energy on campus, growing food and providing strict recycling programs. Many schools also don’t just work towards having a green initiative; they showcase it by providing tours and hosting competitions.

Kind of makes you want to go back to college reading about all the amazing things they are doing now…

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Topics: Green Ideas, Conservation

Adding Atmosphere to the Outdoors with Solar Powered Landscape Lights 

Posted by SEPCO

8/17/15 10:00 AM

Solar Powered Landscape Lights DayA recent project completed using a SEPCO solar power assembly to power multiple small LED landscape light fixtures to provide enough power to illuminate a small area all night. These lights can be used for tree up lighting, lighting small landscape features like a pond or statue, lights along a pathway and so many other applications. Solar powered landscape lights can easily adapt to these types of applications.

Small landscape lights powered by a single larger solar power assembly allows for more versatility in these types of applications. Noticing in the photo, not all fixtures are located in the full sun, allowing for complete charge if using the big box style fixtures with the small solar panel on each individual fixture. Using a single larger solar power assembly allows for the fixtures to be placed in any location, even shaded locations, with the solar power assembly placed in the sun taking full advantage of the sun’s power.

Solar Powered Landscape Lights Night

Secondly, the fixtures do not all have to match. Using multiple style of fixtures for different applications, all powered the same, makes sure that your system operates exactly how you want it to and not have parts of your landscape go out before the rest. If you want all the fixtures to operate dusk to dawn, using a single solar power source sized for the number of fixtures you will be using will ensure that the fixtures operate exactly the way you want.

Pathways that need a little illumination, or that tree that you have been grooming to perfection, or so many other applications, all can be illuminated easily with low wattage landscape fixtures and enjoyed anytime at night. Even overhead rope lights can now be illuminated using solar power assemblies to add a bit of atmosphere to your outdoor space. Next time you look to illuminate your space, contact your solar lighting specialist to see how they can assist you by using a single solar power source to complete your project.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Landscape Lighting

Solar Lighting Systems for Parks and Playgrounds

Posted by SEPCO

8/10/15 10:00 AM

Solar Lighting Systems for Parks and Playgrounds

Parks and playgrounds are a great place to gather with friends and family. From just playing on playgrounds to running around on a field, to walking down trails and relaxing in nature, there are so many things to do at parks. Most parks close around dusk, but there are ones that like to stay open a little later. Proper lighting should always be installed in parks; however, there isn’t always electric available. That’s where solar lighting systems come in to play.

Solar lighting systems can provide so much for parks. They can light signs, information kiosks, trails, pavilions, parking lots and so much more. Since they are independent from the grid, they can be easily installed in any location in the park and provide the light necessary for the application.

Timing is key to determine how long the lights need to operate. If the park closes at dusk, having the lights on an hour or two after dusk ensures that anyone still working on leaving can see. If the park is open later, the lights can provide additional safety and security for people visiting the park after dark. The lighting can also provide additional safety for parks department personnel that need to secure the area at night.

If the park is open early in the morning, before dawn, solar lights can also be programmed to come back on an hour or two before the sun rises. This way, people who are trying to get in that early morning jog can see where they are going and provide additional safety since their visibility will be increased.

No matter what the application is, solar lighting can help with any lighting problems a park has. Working with your local lighting designer or with the solar lighting company directly will help you determine the best solution to the problem.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting, Sign Lighting, Parks & Recreation

Eco-Friendly Building with Solar Powered Parking Lot Lights

Posted by SEPCO

8/3/15 10:00 AM

Hilo Hawaii Solar Powered Parking Lot LightsLooking to build a new place of business or take over an existing building that has no lighting available? Well there is something you can do that will keep costs low, provide a sustainable option, and the installation will preserve the already installed structures. What more could you ask for.

Solar powered parking lot lights can be installed even on an already existing parking lot since all the wiring and electric needed is located at the top of the pole. There is no need to rip up the existing parking area to bring in outside electric, just set the pole, put the solar power assembly at the top with the solar light fixture below, and wait for dark. The light will automatically come on at dusk and run the scheduled operation schedule the end user requires. 

Since no trenching of existing parking lot infrastructure is required, the solar will save on costs of installation as well as provide a zero cost to the electric bill of the facility. This makes solar the go-to option for many existing parking lots that have older cables that are starting to fail. The solar will also provide LEED points for companies looking for that green solution. 

Decorative Solar Parking Lot LightDon’t want standard parking lot fixtures? That’s fine. With solar powered LED light fixtures there are many options available today. Decorative style solar light fixtures can be used to provide architectural fixtures that work well with the surrounding area. By utilizing similar, or even the exact same LED boards in some case, the decorative fixtures can provide the same lighting levels as the standard commercial style fixtures. This provides many more options for meeting architectural and aesthetic requirements of the area. 

These fixtures can also provide directional lighting for less light pollution, better visibility, more even lighting levels, and many are even dark sky certified, meaning the light does not trespass upward into the sky. Non dark sky certified lights provide a lot of wasted light and energy, costing more in the long run and harm the environment as well. 

What about building perimeters you ask? Solar lights can do that as well. There are wall mounted fixtures that can have the solar mounted on the wall or roof of the building. One solar power system can even provide power to multiple fixtures or even the lighted sign on the building. There are many options with perimeter lighting systems including style of solar light fixtures ranging from standard wall packs to larger flood lights. These lights can operate the same as the parking lot areas or on a separate schedule since they are independent from the rest of the light systems installed.

Finally, if you don’t want to pay a power company to power your lights, solar is a great option. Since solar power is renewable and doesn’t cost anything, there are no additional costs to companies who utilize solar for their parking lots. Ask for a ROI analysis from your provider to find out how much you can actually save. You may be amazed at the results.

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Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2012 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting

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