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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Solar Lighting Fixtures Are Versatile and Adapt To Needs of the Project

Posted by SEPCO

9/16/14 9:30 AM

Why so many choices? There are multiple fixtures that can be utilized with a solar lighting system, and each fixture can be used for more than one type of application. Providing different options allows for customization of a system to provide the necessary lighting while staying with the look the customer wants. Here are some of the best examples:

Small Flood Solar Lighting Fixtures

Solar Bus Shelter Lighting

The InGrade solar fixture can provide great lighting for smaller applications such as a sign light, bus stop, bus shelters, flags, area and landscapes, walkways and so much more. This fixture has the ability to be used inside an enclosure or on its own mounted in fixture housing. The picture shown is a great example of using this fixture in a bus shelter mounted within the battery assembly; however, the same fixture can be used for a bus stop light by just making a few adjustments to the overall system. This is definitely a very versatile fixture.

Large Decorative Solar Lighting Fixtures

Solar Street Lighting

The Urban solar fixture can be used for larger applications for roadways, walkways, parking lots, parks, area, pavilions and so much more. These decorative fixtures provide amazing lighting due to the LED technology, are dark sky compliant, and can even be configured to be turtle friendly with ease. These fixtures mount on the side of the pole from a decorative arm bracket or from above underneath a roof structure if needed. They provide a range of optics and distribution patterns that allows for adaptive lighting to whatever the need of the project without losing light levels on the ground.

Standard Solar Lighting Fixtures

Solar Lighting Fixture

The Viper fixture is another versatile fixture. It is a great cross in style between a standard Cobrahead and Shoebox style fixture and easily can adapt to many different situations. This fixture is typically used for roadways, parking lots and area perimeter lighting; however, it can be used for just about all overhead lighting applications. This fixture provides a lot of light even at lower wattages and also offers a wide range of optics and distribution patterns for adaptive lighting. The same fixture can be used with different optics on different areas of the same project ranging from Type II to Type V Square distributions and many in between. Best of all, this fixture is dark sky compliant so all the light is pushed where you need it.

As every customer has a different application, customizing the fixture to the needs of the project will provide the most efficient solar lighting system. There is no reason to use large floods on smaller applications, just like you wouldn’t want a small, low wattage fixture to light up for security, roadway or parking lots. Make sure your fixture does exactly what you need it to do, or don’t hesitate to ask for a different option. Your lighting designers are there to provide you exactly what you need for your project.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Lighting Design, Commercial Street Light LED Fixtures, Off Grid Solar Lighting

Jimmy Carter’s Home Town Signs Brightened Up by Solar Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

8/28/14 9:30 AM

Jimmy Carter introduced the solar tax credit and renewable energy policies, along with being the first president to install solar panels on the roof of the White House, so it would make sense that the place markers of the home of Jimmy Carter would be lit by solar energy. The home of Jimmy Carter is in Plains, GA and is where he resides today. This is a huge attraction for the area and many people stop to take pictures of the area and plaquings located along the way.

Solar Sign Light Jimmy Carter

We were contacted by SolAmerica Energy, a leading solar developer based in Georgia, to provide the solar lighting systems for SolAmerica to install in Plains. The Plains Better Home Town civic group and Chamber of Commerce were installing new plaques to mark Jimmy Carter’s home town and wanted to put up new colorful signs; however, they were requiring lighting at night. Since there was no available power nearby, and the former President had always pushed for solar energy, using a solar lighting system was the preferred choice.

Jimmy Carter Solar Sign Light

The design called for an Architectural Flood fixture to provide the necessary lighting all night for these plaque signs. This provides ability for travelers to take pictures and night and showcase the area at all times. The system is powered by a 50 Watt solar power system that provides plenty of power to light the signs all night and provides five days storage for inclement weather, ensuring the system runs reliably for years to come.

We at SEPCO hope Jimmy Carter enjoys his new solar lighting systems.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, SEPCO News & Information, Sign Lighting

Finding Funds for Nonprofits Renewable Energy Projects

Posted by SEPCO

8/26/14 9:30 AM

Money_for_Non_ProfitsMany organizations do not qualify for the renewable energy tax credits since they are nonprofit. That seems unfair since there is little incentive to get these types of organizations to utilize renewable energy. This bothered me and so I did some research and here is what I found that nonprofit organizations, such as churches, HOA’s and other organizations can do to gather the funds to utilize solar energy without killing their bottom line.

Grants

There are still grants that are available and nonprofits can qualify for these. Grants can be difficult to find, but with a little research, you may be able to find one that fits your needs best. Some great information can be found on the Energy.gov, FedCenter.gov and EPA.gov website about funding and financing of renewable energy project. Also talking to your local community representative may help find what local incentives are available for renewable energy projects. If there is nothing currently available, you can work on possibly sparking an interest and getting them to consider it in the near future.

Fundraising

Fundraising is a great way to get your community involved in your renewable energy efforts. You can hold something as simple as a spaghetti dinner or bake sale that can end up generating quite a bit of funds. You can also dedicate a plaque to larger donors of the project. As long as you make your community feel involved in the process, they will be happy to step forward and take a sense of pride in the project.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is becoming hugely popular as a way to run get funds for a project by giving different level of incentives to help gain more traction. I’m sure by now you have heard of the Potato Salad at Kickstarter to more relevant Solar Roadways at Indigogo that gained some huge traction. Once you create your campaign, sharing it with your community is the first step, but having them share it out can allow those who would like to help your cause, but may not be located nearby, become a part of your project.

Leasing

Some organizations have gone through a leasing agency who can take care of the tax credits and grants search and claiming paperwork and your organization can still benefit. Instead of paying full price, there are leasing organizations that will take an additional discount off your system and then lease it back to you over the course of a number of years. You get a lower price and can slowly pay off your system instead of needing the total amount in one lump sum.

These are just a few options to those nonprofit organizations that still want to utilize renewable energy sources and complete projects to help make their organization a little greener to gain the funds for their projects. What other options have you heard of? We’d love to be able to add more to our list and help all organizations be able to put their green foot forward.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Tax Incentives, Solar Rebates, Funding

Solar Powered Kiosk Shelters for Campuses and Parks

Posted by SEPCO

8/21/14 9:30 AM

Art-Craft-Sign-2Kiosk shelters are a great way to relay information to people visiting a campus or a park. Kiosks can show them useful information such as location maps, events, specials and advertisements. Traditional kiosks are installed all over areas typically not having access to a traditional power source. A great way to light these so the information is available after dark is by utilizing solar kiosk lighting.

With a solar kiosk light system you are able to provide lighting to the information when it is still needed after dark. This allows visitors to easily see where they are, where they may need to go, and some other useful information you may provide. And the systems are typically quite small as they would only need to run until the visitors would no longer be in the area, such as a park closing or classes are over.

Aurora Higher Education Center uses our solar lighting systems for kiosks around the campus to provide information to visitors and students, especially for night class attendants. The systems run for 6 hours after dusk to maximize efficiency and lower the overall size requirements of the system. The costs of trenching in the power to kiosk locations can be costly and AHEC was looking for a renewable aspect while also providing power to kiosk areas that had no electric nearby.

Solar powered kiosk shelters also can be placed around transit areas to help visitors to a city find their next destination and view transit routes easily. This works great for local businesses that would like to attract visitors to their establishment. The kiosk can also serve as a shelter when the weather isn’t favorable. Larger solar powered systems can even provide mobile device charging stations.

Have a kiosk that requires lighting and no power available? Contact us for a free project analysis and see what SEPCO’s solar lighting systems can do for you.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Kiosk Lighting

How To Clean and Maintain Your Solar Light or Power System

Posted by SEPCO

8/19/14 9:30 AM

Solar Light Cleaning and Maintaining

Since there are no moving parts to a solar lighting or solar power system, maintenance is quite easy and doesn’t need to be performed often. Even if your system is at a slope and it rains often where you live, buildup of dirt and debris can still accumulate on the solar panels. There are a few things to do once a year to ensure the system runs at peak performance year after year.

Clean the Solar Panels

Cleaning the solar panels on any system is quite easy and does not take much time. Creating a solution of soap and water, using a soft brush and squeegee will get your solar panels back to their installed luster. You need to do this early in the day, before they start to really heat up from the sun. This is similar to washing your car, and with the steps below, you will be done in no time.

  1. Hose off the panels to wet them down and wash off any loose dirt and dust.
  2. Take your soft bristle brush and soapy water and scrub down the panels. Take mind to any hard to get off spots by gently using your finger or allowing the soap to soak for a minute or two and try again.
  3. Rinse the panels off thoroughly making sure to leave no soapy residue.
  4. Use the squeegee to remove all water to leave no water spots when it dries.

Other Maintenance

While you are there working on cleaning the panels, this is a great time to check all connections for any problems such as chewed wires or conduit, inspect the light fixture (if there is one) for any problems from weather, vandalism or wildlife, and make any replacement or repairs as needed. This is also a great time to replace the batteries if it has been between five and seven years.

That is all there is to cleaning and maintaining your solar light or power system. If you discover any issues, you can contact the manufacturer to troubleshoot the system further or purchase replacement parts. You can also check out our quick and easy troubleshooting guide for more information on any issues you may come across.
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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Power

Tips and Trick for Solar Outdoor Lighting Troubleshooting

Posted by SEPCO

8/12/14 9:30 AM

Solar_Outdoor_Lighting_Troubleshooting

Solar outdoor lighting is a great way to showcase your green initiative and provide great lighting in all types of areas, but what do you do when they malfunction and don’t come on when expected? There are a few tips and tricks to troubleshooting solar lights that help you determine what the issue is. Here are a few of the most common issues that work for both commercial and residential solar light systems and how you can determine what the issue may be.

1. Are they coming on, but turning off before they are supposed to?

Sometimes your lights just don’t last as long as they once did and this is typically caused by batteries dying. With commercial solar lights, the batteries should last five to seven years if properly sized for the application. If it is coming up to that point, it is time to contact the manufacturer and get replacement batteries. Small home solar lights have batteries as well; however, these typically last a much shorter time and can easily be replaced by purchasing rechargeable batteries from your local store. Remember, batteries only have so many cycles before they just go bad and need replacing.

Another issue could be the solar panel is dirty and not producing the required power to charge the batteries fully. This is a simple fix and one of the easiest things to check. Look at the solar panel and see if it is dirty, then follow steps on cleaning the solar panel and see if that helps the system function properly. This doesn’t need to happen often, especially if your panels are at an angle and it rains often enough to keep dusk and grime from building up on the panels.

Finally, are the panels shaded by something that has grown in the way? Trees and surrounding landscaping grows over time and can cause shading on the panels, not allowing them to charge the batteries fully. Make sure there is nothing taller than the panels near the south of the system’s installation. Solar panels need direct sunlight all day and even the smallest amount of shade changes the output of the solar panels.

2. Are the lights not coming on at all?

This could be one of two issues if the lights worked at one point; the battery as above, the lamp or a blown fuse. If the battery is what you think is the problem, replace them. If it isn’t the battery, it is more than likely the lamp. A lamp only has a certain life span and they need to be changed out every so often, just like a light bulb in your home. There are exceptions to this rule such as LED technology. Most LEDs last 15+ years; however, if you are using CFL, HPS, LPS or metal halide, they can die much sooner. Determine what type of lamp is operated by your solar lighting system and figure out if it is time to replace the lamp or not. One suggestion we would give is if it is time to change out your lamps, look into utilizing a LED fixture. Not only will they last longer, they will give you more light for the same power draw, a complete win-win.

The last thing that could be going wrong seems like the simplest thing, but it can render your system completely dead. A blown fuse will terminate all power from flowing through your system and not allow the light to come on at all; however, it is a simple replacement with a new fuse the proper size and your system will be up and running immediately. All SEPCO systems come with an extra fuse in the battery box just in case of this situation.

Now that you know the basics to troubleshooting your solar lights, you should easily be able to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it. Need additional troubleshooting help? Contact your manufacturer for additional support.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Installation, Troubleshooting

Achieving NET Zero with Off Grid vs Grid Tied Solar Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

8/7/14 9:30 AM

Companies today are looking for ways to improve their energy efficiency, lower their costs and increase their sustainable practices into their business model. One of the most effective ways for a company to complete all three tasks is to look for NET Zero solutions. NET Zero is when a business or home uses the equal amount of power that it produces on a yearly basis. There are times where a building may use more than it produces at one point of the year; however, it averages out when the building produces more energy than it uses.

Lighting is a huge part of the energy usage of a business; however, there are options to help achieve NET Zero when looking at exterior lighting utilizing solar lights. There are two main types of solar lighting systems that can help achieve a NET Zero application. The first is off grid solar lighting systems that utilize no power from the grid. The second is grid tied solar lights that feed the grid during the day and use the power from the grid at night.

Off Grid Solar Lighting

Off Grid Solar Lighting

With off grid solar lighting, the solar panel is sized to charge a battery bank during the day that is large enough to feed the lights all night. The solar power system is determined by the light fixture Amps, amount of sun in the worst case scenario (typically winter), the run time required and the amount of battery backup that is required for that area, a minimum of five days autonomy is typical in a good system. These systems do not rely on the grid power and are completely NET Zero from installation.

In areas with little sun in the winter, there are restrictions to what wattage lamp can be used. High powered LEDs will require much larger solar arrays and battery banks in the northern areas, making the systems costly for initial purchase. This can be reduced by reducing the run time of the system (say only till 2 hours after the business closes and then on again an hour or so before the business reopens). Working with a solar lighting professional or a lighting designing company can help you find the best solution to fit in your budget and provide the necessary lighting requirements for your application.

Grid Tied Solar Lighting

Grid Tied Solar Lighting

With grid tied solar lighting, the solar panel is sized to the average sun hours and does not include a battery bank. The solar feeds the grid during the day and the grid runs the light fixture at night. There are still sizing constraints with this type of system to achieve NET Zero. The solar panel needs to be sized to provide enough power that it equals the usage of the lamp. A large 250 Watt Metal Halide lamp will require a much larger solar power system than a 90 Watt Equivalent LED fixture. LED switch outs are recommended in grid tied solar lighting applications.

These systems are much less costly than off grid solar lighting systems and have a quick ROI, but are not a good option in areas that do not have grid power already installed or easy access to grid power. If there is not electric currently at the site, off grid solar light systems are the better solution since there will be no trenching of the area (especially roadways and parking lots) and the expensive drop down and cables required to run the electric to the area.

Each option has its benefits to help a business achieve NET Zero certification on their new or updated facilities. Working with a solar lighting company that understands your needs will ensure that you have a system designed to specifications and will provide a great ROI and long life. 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Lighting Design, Grid Tied Solar Lighting, Off Grid Solar Lighting

Solar LED Road Lights Provide Great Lighting to All Types of Roadways

Posted by SEPCO

8/5/14 9:30 AM

Solar_LED_Road_LightsRoadways are our connection to everything and everyone. They can take us from the east coast to the west coast and anywhere in between. Raphaël Renaud said “Roads and streets, the central nervous system of complete urbanization”. But if you’ve ever driven late at night, you know how difficult it can be to drive on dark roads.

This is where solar road lights can come in to save the day. These types of lighting systems can be installed in any location.

Don’t mistake me for talking about the solar roadways. As this is a great idea and can completely change how our roadway are completed, how they respond to our world, and all the many benefits that comes along, this is not what I am referring to. I am talking about the solar LED road lights that provide overhead lighting on the ground below as travelers drive down the road.

Benefits of solar LED road lights include:

  • Reduction in night accidents
  • Aid security and police protection
  • Improve the flow of traffic
  • Promote business and use of public facilities at night

Local roadways do not have the same lighting requirements as large highways; however, still need to provide adequate lighting for safety to vehicles and pedestrians. Roadways are also implementing bike lanes to cater to the increase of bike usage and sidewalks for pedestrians. This requires an increase in the need for lighting for additional safety concerns of not just cars on the roadways anymore.

LED_Solar_Road_Lights

Since electrical infrastructure was not always put in place when a road was installed, solar powered road lights provide the necessary lighting without having to dig up the roads or damaging the surrounding area. These self-contained light systems are perfect for older roads as well as new road installations and cut down on installation, unsightly overhead wiring and provide immediate payback since the power is 100% free for the life of the system.

Finally, with the popularity of LED fixtures, you are not stuck with the same old Cobrahead roadway fixtures. You can utilize architectural fixtures on roadways that can produce the same lighting levels as the old style light fixtures and fit within the design of the area.

With the expansion of lighting styles and the combination of green solar power, solar LED road lights are a great way to use green power and provide lighting to just about any roadway.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

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, Bollard Lighting

3 Types of Solar Street Light Retrofit Systems

Posted by SEPCO

7/22/14 9:30 AM

So you are purchasing a new property and the street lighting is standard electric. But maybe you are looking to be a green company, or want to reduce costs, or maybe even both. There are a couple ways you can complete a solar street light retrofit and complete both goals.

Grid Intertie Systems

Solar_Street_Light_Retrofit_Grid_Intertie

The first type of solar street light retrofit system you can install would be a grid intertied system. Installing a solar panel on the existing poles to feed the grid during the day and then utilizing the grid power at night will help offset some costs and provide a green alternative. Depending on how much power you want to generate during the day determines the size of the solar panel to install. Work with a local electrical contractor to decide what you will need and the local power company to put on a special device that tracks your power generation. Also, make sure to switch to energy efficient LED fixtures to maximize your savings.

 

Off Grid Systems

Solar_Street_Light_Retrofit_Off_Grid

Second type of solar street light retrofit would be to take the systems off grid completely by installing and off grid solar powered street light. These systems charge a battery assembly during the day to provide the power to the light at night. The solar panel assembly works as a photocell to turn the light fixture on and off and typically provides five nights autonomy. This setup is more expensive to purchase, but provides free energy for the life of the systems, typically 30 years or more, with only the batteries to replace every five to seven years.

Battery Backup Systems

Solar_Street_Light_Retrofit_Battery_Backup

Battery backup systems are the best of both worlds. With a battery backup system, you generate the power for the batteries, typically smaller battery assemblies than complete off grid systems, and feed excess power to the grid. The batteries can either run the lights for a set amount of time at night followed by grid power for the remainder of the night, or only be utilized if there is a power outage in the area; a great idea for areas without reliable grid energy. This setup can also work with a larger battery backup and a trickle charger to provide multiple day storage like off grid systems but only be activated in times of grid outages.

There you have it. There are pros and cons to each type of system which we will cover next time. What type of solar street light retrofit do you prefer?

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Street Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

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