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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Versatility and Cost Savings through Commercial Solar Lighting Systems

Posted by SEPCO

2/9/15 10:00 AM

It is estimated that lighting alone accounts for 12% of the total U.S. electrical consumption every year, using upwards of 461 billion kWh of electricity. This is a heavy cost to businesses, cities and municipalities. Solar lighting can provide both a financial relief as well as a green alternative to traditional lighting. They are self-contained and grid free, and with LED technology, requiring almost no maintenance throughout their lifespan. These lower installation costs compared with utility powered lighting and continue huge savings in the short and long run for most installations.

SEPCO provides versatile solar lighting systems that can easily adapt to most lighting requirements. From large parking lots, roadways, security perimeters and such, all the way down to small sign, flag and bus stop / shelter lighting systems, each project is specified to meet the needs of the application. With over 30 years in the lighting industry, SEPCO solar lighting systems have provided illumination to thousands of projects all over the world.

Martin County Airport Street Lighting

Locally, we have installed a number of projects, Airport Road in Stuart, FL being one. The Martin County Project Manager Paul Bangs chose SEPCO solar lighting systems “to do something innovative” along this stretch of roadway leading into the local airport. The solar lighting systems will save the county money both in the short and long-term as there is no need to run permanent power and the lights are easy to assemble and install. These systems use efficient LED fixtures that provide even lighting along the roadway and are dark sky compliant so no light is wasted.

If a roadway is in a landmark area, more decorative and architecturally designed fixtures may be required. SEPCO’s partnership with Hubbell Lighting allows us to easily adapt almost any style fixture to our solar power systems. This allows us to provide large decorative fixtures for roadway applications without sacrificing lighting levels.

Bradenton Beach Turtle Friendly Street Lighting

The City of Bradenton Beach required just that. The city was looking to use renewable energy to lower the city’s electric bill and become more environmentally friendly. This coastal city has streets of beautiful architecture, homes and shops, and required something a little more than a standard street light system. Using the Urban fixture, we were able to provide a solar lighting system that matched the look of the area, and by powder coating the entire system, blended the solar lighting systems in well with the surrounding buildings and landscape. The lights in Bradenton Beach are a beautiful example of how solar and decorative fixtures work well together to provide the needed lighting for the area while not compromising the architectural looks of an area.

MCAS BEQ Retrofit Pathway Lighting

Mandates that have been set forth by the US Federal Government have required federal facilities to reduce energy and improve energy security by installing renewable energy that operates independent of the electrical grid. The US Marine Corps Bachelor Enlisted Quarters complied with this by retrofitting their current lighting systems with solar power and replacing the fixtures with LEDs to increase visibility. Their parking lots and walkways have all been fitted with solar powered LED systems replacing the old High Pressure Sodium lamps with LED fixtures, even matching the style of the old fixtures along the walkways with Beacon’s Slide fixture.

US Military MH Parking Lot Lighting

LED lights are not the only style fixtures that can be adapted. A secure US Military facility required Metal Halide fixtures to be used for their roadway and parking lot area application. We were able to adapt a standard shoebox fixture with Metal Halide lamps to provide this facility light along their roadways, entrances and parking lot areas. This helped the facility to meet its energy reduction goal and provide security through grid free lighting.

Fort McHenry Flag and Street and Parking Lot Lighting

Fort McHenry has been using our solar powered lighting systems for their entrance and parking lots since 2001; however, in 2009 they installed a solar lighting system to light the Star Spangled Banner flag, replacing the 400 Watt metal halide flood lights that were bulky, compromising the aesthetics of the site, and consumed unnecessary energy. They installed a 24 Watt and a 17 Watt flood fixture along with the solar power system on the rooftop of the fort, unseen from tourists. These illuminate the oversized reproduction 15-star 15-stripe original flag for all night. The switch from the metal halide fixtures to LED increased the visibility and allows the flag to show its true colors at night.

SEPCO’s founder Steve Robbins invented the first commercial solar street light over 25 years ago and has been a leader in the industry since SEPCO was founded in 1994. Systems are manufactured to specifications laid out by the project designer with help from our lighting specialists. Each system is custom built and takes into account the geographical location, available sun, light level requirements and weather of each installation location to determine the best system to meet the needs of the customer. SEPCO systems provide a minimum of five nights autonomy, more in the northern areas, and have a life span of 25 to 30 years, providing long term benefit to every solar lighting system installed.

SEPCO also provides custom solar power systems for many different applications. From cameras, Wi-Fi, meters, monitoring systems, the stand alone solar power stations can provide the needed power for almost any application where grid power is not available. These types of systems have been installed all over the world and are primarily used for military and government applications.

In the end, commercial solar lighting systems can provide the necessary security and reduce our energy consumption while maintaining the architectural integrity of the project. With a wide range of choices and custom built designs, SEPCO can easily adapt to the project requirements without sacrificing the lighting level requirements of the area..

***Above is the article feature in November in the Electrical Products and Solutions magazine.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Determine The Best Way To Implement Pathway Lighting In 3 Easy Steps

Posted by SEPCO

1/19/15 9:30 AM

Solar Powered Pathway LightingPathway lights cover a myriad of different areas. They can be small walkways like in front of a house or through landscaping, or large walkways like those around a college campus or park. Adequate lighting allows for people along the pathway after dark to be able to see where they are going and provide visibility to their surrounding areas. To ensure these pathways are properly illuminated, there are a few steps to follow to determine what sort of lighting would be required.

Step 1 - Determine what type of pathway will be illuminated.

Small pathways that are only a foot or two wide in gardens or along a home do not require much lighting other than illuminating the footpath as there is typically other lighting to illuminate the surrounding area. These are typically illuminated with small pagoda or bollard style lighting that only provides the light at a very low level.

Larger pathways that are over three feet wide will require high powered bollard fixtures or overhead fixtures to provide a large area of light. With LED lighting and advanced optics, these fixtures can provide lighting to just the path, or the path and surrounding areas for added security. These areas also characteristically require even illumination which cannot be provided by small, low powered fixtures.

Step 2 - Determine how to power the light fixtures.

These types of fixtures can be either standard grid powered or solar powered. Standard electrical power requires the use of underground wiring and should be implemented in the planning phase of a project to not disturb the landscaping or require for breaking up concrete to trench under. The electrical lights can be set on a timer to only be on during the times they will be needed, or the lights can operate all night.

Solar powered pathway lighting such as solar bollards or solar pagoda lights can be designed two ways. The first way is to have every light have its own solar power source, typically fixed to the top of the fixture. These fixtures provide the lighting where needed; however, they are prone to vandalism, and due to the flat panel design, do not get the full advantage of the sun, especially when there is inclement weather such as snow or cloudy weather. These types of fixtures also can only be located in sunny areas and cannot be installed under trees or nearby something that can cast a shadow on the solar during the day. They also do not typically operate all night or have much for backup power if they are not able to be fully charged by the sun the following day.

Using a single solar power source that is remotely installed with full access to the sun to provide the power for multiple fixtures provides added security since these types of solar power assemblies are more vandal resistant and can be located in a more secure location or high up on a pole with the fixtures installed anywhere they are needed, even in the shade. They are typically mounted at an angle facing south to take full advantage of all the power the sun can provide. The solar power assembly provides more power than integrated fixtures with solar as well as much more backup power for inclement weather periods.

Solar powered pathway lights are the perfect solution for lighting an area that does not have electrical power nearby or as an afterthought to an existing area. They can also be set on a timer for specific operation times or operate all night for areas, such as a hospital, that are open all night.

Step 3 - Determine the architectural requirements of the area.

Is the pathway located in an industrial or historic area? Are there fixtures that would need to be matched already located nearby? With the number of light fixture styles available, there is sure to be a fixture to meet the architectural needs of the project.

LEDs have advanced and can provide similar lighting levels for each fixture style. Learn about the fixture designs and talk to your local lighting company to determine if they can meet your requirements. Since LEDs are easily integrated with solar power systems, the requirement for a solar option no longer keeps you confined to only a small selection of fixtures.

Following these three steps will help you determine what the best solution to your project is. Speak with your lighting representative to see what solutions they can provide you for your project and all the options they have available to meet your needs. With the advancements in the lighting industry happening every day, now is a great time to explore your options in solar lighting.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Pathway Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Solar Lighting Solutions are Bound to Make an Impact on Your Business

Posted by SEPCO

10/30/14 9:30 AM

Solar lighting solutionsSolar lighting solutions can positively impact a business for a few different reasons. Here are three, but I’m sure there are more. Feel free to add yours below.

 

Impact your bottom line

Solar lighting solutions will impact your bottom line, especially in the long term. Installing solar in the initial build phase of a business will do the most impact in regards to the bottom line. The solar lights reduce the cost of wiring parking lots and entrance roadways with standard electric. They also allow for the addition of lights on existing areas that do not have access to the electric grid. Replacement of existing electric does not have the initial financial impact since the purchase of the solar lighting systems can be costly; however, when looking at the long term ROI of the solar project, and comparing that to electrical costs that rise year after year, the savings will add up in the long run.

 

Impact your green initiative

Is your business looking to be greener and have less of an impact on the environment? Solar lighting solutions provide just that. Since the systems are off the grid, they use no power to operate the fixtures and have a zero carbon impact. The systems charge during the day and operate from the solar charged batteries at night. The system is completely self-contained and practically maintenance free with the implementation of LEDs, there is little costs past initial installation. The only thing to worry about is changing of batteries, but these are also recyclable so there is much less impact there.

 

Impact your image with your customers

Image is always top on the list of any business; you always want to attract customers to your place. With the climate change awareness that is happening today, people prefer to use greener companies and local businesses over other types of companies. Showcasing the green initiative to your customers by using solar lighting, along with using solar to help offset your actual building electrical usage, will impact you image positively to your customers. It shows how you are looking out for our future and doing your part to lessen your impact on the earth.

What other impacts on a business would solar have? Let me know in the comments below.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Outdoor Solar Lighting Solutions to Exterior Illumination Needs

Posted by SEPCO

10/23/14 3:27 PM

Outdoor Solar Lighting Solutions Parking LotWe've become a very energy conscious society these days, going from fossil fuels and the old format of electricity to more renewable resources. One of the most popular areas to make this change has been in the area of lighting. Standard electric is great but can get quite costly over time, as a result people are starting to turn toward an outdoor solar lighting option in order to recoup some of the money they've been spending in order to light their locations. Going solar is the best move in many cases, but there are other things to consider when you're taking the leap from one lighting option to another. Probably the biggest question to ask is what the application of your lighting will be, is this something that is being used to light a parking lot at a business, are you putting up lights along the side of a road that will help drivers see where they're headed at night, or are you putting up lighting in a public park so that people taking a walk in the night hours can see their way along the path? Depending on the location you'll have to weigh the options, once you've made a decision to go solar, the choice of lighting styles becomes a bit easier.

When you're trying to light a parking lot you're going to need some seriously high powered bulbs for the job. You're lighting an incredibly large area, with the one positive being that it's mostly wide open spaces. The goal is to keep the entire area lit up, leaving as little room for dark spaces as possible. If you're running a store this is mandatory because it means a bit more safety for your customer base. The most popular lighting for a parking lot is typically going with large area lights. These give you the choice of CFL style bulbs, Metal Halide, and the increasingly popular LED light option. As long as you're going an outdoor solar lighting any option is great, but you're going to want to lean more toward the LED in most cases as it provides amazing light while burning less energy, and lasting longer than your other choices. While CFL is good, they just can't compete with the luminosity put out by an LED bulb. When combined with a solar setup you're looking at the absolute best energy option available.

Outdoor Solar Lighting Solutions Park LightingLighting a park is another interesting scenario as it requires a bit more intimate lighting than what you would use for a parking lot. You're going to want to have lighting closer to ground level, something that's going to be used to light up a walkway instead of looking to light the entire area around said park. Once again you have to select LED versus CFL and Metal Halide light bull options, you'll have to look decide which one works best for your location. The fun part of park lighting is less in the bulb style and more in selecting the appearance you want for your lights. Many locations these days are going for the more classic column with a canister on top, a touch of old world style with modern LED bulbs. It gives you a great blend of past and present, lighting the way toward the future. No matter what decision you make, as long as you're focused on going with solar lighting solutions, you'll be coming out as the winner in your project. With the breakthroughs in solar cell production in recent years it's bound to get even better as time ticks forward, keep your finger on the pulse and all will go well.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Solar Bollard Lighting for Parks and Pathways

Posted by SEPCO

7/29/14 9:30 AM

Bollards are used as along pathways and around parks to provide perimeter markings. They can range from concrete or steel posts to intricate decorative posts, all typically standing between 3’ and 5’ tall. Lighted bollards can provide additional features such as lighting the area at night to provide added visibility to pedestrians while marking the boundary of an area from a distance.

Solar powered bollard lights provide a green alternative and allow for lighted bollards to be placed in areas without disturbing the surrounding landscape. As the power is self-contained within a solar power system, these bollards can be placed just about anywhere. With separated solar power systems, the bollards can even be placed in shaded areas with the solar located nearby out in the sun. This allows for additional installation options than solar bollard lights that only have the solar panel installed on the top of the bollard.

Solar_Bollard_Lighting

There are a couple options to look for with solar bollard lighting. The first is with the light output. Reflectors are used to provide 360 degree lighting; however, shields allow for the light to be directed in a specific area. Second option is style of bollards as they come in either of those round or square shapes, a range of colors to fit in with current architectural requirements and the tops of the bollards can be customized with many different styles. Finally, is even pathway lighting required or just spot lighting for marking the area? If even lighting is required along a pathway, there will be a need to place the bollards closer together; however, most bollards can be placed about 15’ apart and provide a decent amount of light on the ground.

No matter what option you choose, utilizing solar bollard lighting can provide the needed lighting with no impact on the environment or the landscaping nearby. Solar provides a renewable source of energy to power the bollards and allows the area to be lit for safety of people in the area.
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Topics: Solar Lighting, Landscape Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Tips for Maintaining Small Solar Walkway Lights

Posted by SEPCO

6/24/14 9:30 AM

battery_for_walkway_lightsNow that summer is upon us some of you are digging out those solar lights to put along the sidewalk again to make a nice shining light on your walkway. So you put them all in the ground let them charge the whole day only to find out that night that most of them don’t work and the ones that do are very dim and not doing much. Even though they don’t cost much who wants to go out every summer and buy new lights, I know I don’t.

Working in the solar industry we sell batteries with our systems, so it would only make sense that these lights would take batteries too. Upon some investigations of my walkway lights I found some screws in the bottom of them, and me being the tinkering type of person, decided to see just how these little lights worked. What I found upon removing the screws was simply a little AA battery. I guess it never occurred to me that all I would have to do to fix these lights is just replace the battery inside and the next night when dawn came upon us my lights were working again.  Replacing all the batteries in my lights only cost as much as it would have cost to replace about 2 of the lights I currently had. 

nail_polish_on_lightsAnother quick tip that I found is that if the lights are still not bright after replacing the batteries you can try to put some more life into the cell itself. Looking at my own I noticed the plastic on the top looked a little cloudy, this would prevent the sun from being able to give a full charge to the battery. After looking into it I found a really neat idea that made sense so I tried it. I got out some clear nail polish and put a thin coat on top of the solar cells and once again they looked shiny and new like the day I bought them.

I really don’t know how much longer this will extend the life of my lights but it has saved me money for at least one more summer. I think the elements alone will probably affect the lights before they go out themselves so I guess we will see.

pathway_lights

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Topics: Green Ideas, Pathway Lighting

Using Solar Outdoor Bollard Lighting for Pathways

Posted by SEPCO

4/8/14 9:30 AM

Solar Outdoor Bollard LightingA local park recently installed some solar outdoor bollard lights for their pathways around their park. These bollards light provide pathway lighting around the perimeter pedestrian walkway and add to the safety of this residential area. I wanted to provide you a good comparison of different style bollard systems for projects similar to this one.

You can find solar bollards that have the solar panel integrated into the top of the fixture with the battery storage inside the bollard themselves. These types of bollard lights are prone to vandalism as the solar panel is small and hard to protect. They are also typically not as bright and do not provide all night lighting. These systems are great for pathways that do not require much lighting and are used primarily for just path markers. If you find a system that will run all night, the lights are typically very dim and do not have much backup power for times of inclement weather. However, this type of bollard provides lighting and power all in one self-contained system.

You can also have a single solar power assembly powering multiple fixtures along a pathway. This can provide additional security for the solar as you can mount the solar high on a pole, out of harms-way. This design requires a little bit of trenching burying the wiring from the solar panel to each bollard on the string; however, there is still much less trenching than is required to bring in traditional grid power. The solar is typically sized for all night lighting with a bright LED lamp. The system also provides a minimum of five days backup power for times of inclement weather and to lessen the depth of discharge of the battery, extending the life of the system.

Depending on your needs for lighting, there is a system that will perfectly fit your requirements. Using bollards for low light applications where overhead lighting isn’t required is a great way to increase security while keeping with the style and architecture of the area.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Park Safety with Solar Walkway Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

9/10/13 9:30 AM

Solar Walkway LightA city municipality in the greater Miami area turned to SEPCO to design a custom solar power walkway lighting system for a small park located in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  The challenge was to create strong enough illumination for the neighborhood residents to be able to enjoy and feel safe walking in the park during park’s evening hours, yet not so much light as to disturb residents with homes adjacent to the park.

SEPCO’s solution for the lighting aspect of the project was to illuminate the walkways throughout the park with 20 strategically placed bollards, each equipped with a high performance 8 watt LED light engine.  The next challenge was figuring out a way to power the 20 8 watt LED bollards exclusively with clean, renewable solar energy.

It is worth noting that while there are many solar power LED bollards on the market today that feature self-contained / built-in solar power systems. SEPCO does not subscribe to this design philosophy. The key reason being that our extensive testing has shown that available surface area of a standard bollard is simply not large enough to house a solar array that is large enough to power an LED bollard capable of creating commercial quality lighting for any meaningful amount of time (ex. 6-8 hours) without fail 7 nights week, 365 nights a year.  

SEPCO’s solution for the off-grid solar power portion of the project was to design one large, centrally located 340 watt solar power system with the inherent capacity to provide ultra reliable power needed to illuminate all twenty 8 watt LED bollards for a total of seven hours per night (i.e. system is programmed to operate from dusk for five hours…then turn off…then back on automatically two hours pre-dawn for the early morning walkers).

The net result is an ultra reliable, high performance solar power walkway lighting system that both local residents and adjacent homeowners can enjoy and appreciate. 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Solar Pathway Lights are the Perfect Solution for Remote Areas

Posted by SEPCO

1/22/13 9:30 AM

Solar Pathway LightsPathway and sidewalk lighting are great applications for solar lighting solutions. These walkways are often located in parks or generally off the beaten path. The electrical grid may not be available in these areas. Even sidewalks adjacent to roadways can present costly challenges related to extending the power grid for lighting purposes. Solar lighting can be used for lighting these walkways without the need of the electrical grid. Solar panels produce their own electrical energy that is stored in batteries which are used to power the lights at night.

There are a variety of reasons lighting may be needed on pathways. As mentioned earlier, often times these walkways are located in remote areas. These areas may not see any significant ambient lighting making them too dark to use at night. Solar lighting can make these spaces available for enjoyment at night as well as during the day. Safety from crime can also be a factor in the need for pathway lighting.  Proper lighting can be a powerful deterrent to criminals and allow people to feel safe walking at night.

Solar Power for Pathway LightsMost solar pathway lighting installations use one or more solar power assemblies to run power to a string of lights mounted low to the ground.  This reduces the cost of the overall installations by not needing a separate solar power source for each light fixture. This also allows the power assembly to be located in an area with full access to the sun during the day, while the fixture locations may be shaded part or all of the day. Usually low voltage DC power is run from the power assembly to the fixtures, allowing for the use of direct buried UF cable instead of having to run the wires through costly conduit. In other installations with longer strings of lights, an inverter may be used to run AC power out to the fixtures.

With the advancement of LED’s, several fixture styles have become available for use with solar pathway lighting systems. Most any size, shape and style of bollard lights are available. If preferred, pagoda style lights may be used also. Even lights specifically used for dock and boardwalk type applications have their place in solar pathway lighting solutions.

Like many lighting applications where light is needed in remote or hard to reach areas, solar lighting can be an ideal tool for improved pathways.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Solar Bollard Lights: Forgotten Commercial Solar Lights

Posted by SEPCO

10/11/12 9:30 AM

SolarBollardLightBollard lights are popular in pathway and walkway applications. These too can be powered by solar panels. Large panel assemblies can power multiple fixtures with the solar power assemblies being fit into the surrounding landscaping, or there are solar bollard fixtures that have the solar panels fit into the top of the bollard. There are two major differences between these two applications; larger solar means higher powered lighting and smaller, built in solar panels provide lower power lighting.

High powered bollards are great if security and areas where a larger amount of lighting is required. These larger powered bollard fixtures can be installed anywhere on a walkway with the solar power nearby to showcase a green initiative, or be remotely mounted and blended within the landscape. The bollard fixtures themselves come in a variety of styles and colors to match the architectural surroundings.

Bollard Light Solar Powered

Lower powered bollard lights with the solar panels built into the top of the fixture are used primarily for accent lighting. These fixtures provide enough light to mark the walkway area so pedestrian traffic knows where the walkway exists. These fixtures also come in a variety of styles and colors to match the architectural surroundings and do not have to worry about blending the solar power system within the area.

So next time you are looking for an architectural way to light up your pathway, look into solar bollard lighting. Its a perfect way to be beautifully sustainable.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Landscape Lighting, Pathway Lighting

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