Many years ago, when solar lighting was in its infancy, all people would think of is the huge solar panels with the standard industrial fixtures that were starting to show up. The low lumen output of old style lamps required such high wattages to be used, wasting power and having power losses that had to be taken into consideration.
Now, with the implementation of LEDs that provide many more lumens per watt and having great efficiencies, in conjunction with solar power, fixture options are changing dramatically. Instead of just seeing the standard Cobrahead or utility style fixture, a more decorative line is now available.
Decorative LED fixtures are now available that can produce the same light output as standard commercial fixtures. The same LED boards that are used in more industrial fixtures are now made to fit inside the decorative style. The fixtures fit in well with architectural surroundings and are perfect for downtown district areas, parks, and on pathways and residential areas.
Standard overhead fixtures are now becoming brighter for larger applications while using less power than their old style lamp counterparts. Since most LEDs are producing 100+ lpw (lumens per watt), and efficiencies are constantly improving, we are able to get more light for a much lower wattage (power requirement). Best of all, the LEDs operate much more efficiently using DC power than AC power.
The LEDs can have multiple distribution patters for different lighting needs such as round for larger areas to thin and wide for two lane roadways. Most LED fixtures are also dark sky compliant keeping from additional light pollution falling on surrounding areas.
Since LED fixtures use less power, the solar that is needed to power the fixtures is less. And since the fixtures are brighter with a larger lighting pattern, the number of fixtures required for an application is less. This lowers the cost of the overall project and provides an even faster payback period for going solar.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2012 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.