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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

The A – Z of Solar LED Area Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

11/13/14 9:30 AM

Solar LED Area LightingSolar LED area lighting can be used for many applications ranging from small single LED lights along a pathway to large overhead lights for roadways and parking lots. Each system should be designed for the specific application and to provide the required lighting levels. Good research on the project application, design work and choosing of the final product will ensure that the end user gets exactly the type of system that perfectly fits their needs.

Small walkway lighting can be accomplished in multiple ways. From small off-the-shelf lighting systems for home walkways to larger corporate walkways using higher powered bollard fixtures vary in their design, costs and maintenance. The off-the-shelf systems typically each have their own solar panel, battery and all included in each fixture. These systems are not high powered, but can outline the area they are placed along. These systems require a lot of maintenance as their solar is only sized to provide a small amount of power with little to no backup from the battery, making the system use all available power nightly and reducing the battery lifespan dramatically; typically needing replacing every year or two.

Larger bollard fixtures can be installed in one of two ways; each having their own solar power system integrated within the bollard fixture, or multiple bollards powered off a single large power array. The single bollards that each has their own solar power system provide a little better storage than the small big box solar lighting systems; however, they will still require much more maintenance than a commercial lighting system. These types of systems have a flat panel on the top of each light requiring constant cleaning, especially in the northern snowy areas, and are more prone to vandalism. The batteries are typically only a couple day backup, which still produces a short lifespan of a battery. Large solar arrays powering multiple fixtures will provide a longer lasting system as there is typically a minimum of five nights autonomy and the solar is sized to replace the total usage every night in the worst case scenario, winter.

Other area lighting applications use larger fixtures such as floods and overhead light fixtures. These are much higher powered systems and provide large area lighting for parking lots, streets, perimeters, etc. These systems each have their own solar power assembly to provide the power to the fixture and operate as specified by the end user. These systems need to still be sized properly to ensure they are reliable and provide a long lifespan.

These larger projects have a considerable amount of customization options and discussing the needs of the project with the lighting designer will guarantee that the light specified for the project will meet the needs perfectly. Different distributions for different lighting applications can be used to customize the lighting system so that lighting is only installed where needed and not wasted. Also, control options provide specific lighting needs, such as dusk to dawn or specific timing, even dimming options that can be considered. Always make sure that the lighting representative knows the end project requirements before specifying any type of custom control electronics.

Next time you are looking to light up an area and need a solar option, consult your solar lighting specialist to help you design the perfect system tailored to your specific needs. From big to small, solar LED area lighting can be a great choice.

 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Boat Ramp Lighting, Off Grid Solar Lighting, Large Area Lighting, Area Lighting

7 Questions That Level the Commercial Solar Lighting Playing Field

Posted by SEPCO

11/6/14 9:30 AM

Commercial Solar Lighting Playing FieldSolar Lighting is not all the same. Yes, they include panels, batteries, light fixtures, control electronics and brackets for mounting the fixture and solar; however, there are many differences when deciding the best solution for your project. Here are the 7 questions you should ask to ensure you are getting exactly what you are looking for and to be able to compare the offerings of different solar lighting manufacturers.

  1. What is the type of solar module used?

Is the solar module single or multi-crystal panels? Mono (single) and Poly (multi) crystal panels, though vary in efficiencies, are both great for energy production and work well in off grid solar situations. Making sure you are purchasing quality solar panels will ensure their long life span and energy production. Some unknown brands of solar panels will state that they provide the same power; however, they typically cannot stand up to the test of time like well-known solar panel manufacturers do, as well as back their products and stand by them on the warranties.

  1. What type of fixture is being used?

All fixtures are not equal. Finding out the lumens per watt provided by the fixture will allow you to determine the light output of the fixture. Also, you need to find out how long the fixtures have been in production and if they are from a reputable company. You don’t want a fixture that hasn’t been field tested for some time by a company that has no experience in the lighting industry. Especially with LED fixtures, you want to make sure the fixture will last as long as the system does.

  1. Is there protection for the solar?

Protecting your solar power system is a great way to safeguard that your system will stay standing for years to come. Some companies, such as ours, use panel pans to protect the fragile backside of the solar panels. Vandal hardware can also be used to make sure that the system cannot be easily removed from installation site. Finally, higher quality solar panel manufacturers use tougher glass material on the front of the panel so not to get damage from wind-blown debris and storms that include hail.

  1. What are the controls of the system?

Knowing exactly how your system will operate will guarantee you are getting exactly what you are expecting from your solar lighting system. Some companies hide in the fine print that their systems in fact operate all night; however, after so long, it will be at a reduced wattage, sometimes as low as a fraction of the original wattage requested. Make sure you get the control profile of the system that matches your needs. If dimming is an option on your project, great, but make sure you know how much the fixture will be dimming. If no dimming is allowed, make sure to read through the fine print. Learn about all the control options available before you finalize your design.

  1. Is there enough storage for inclement weather?

Five days storage is the minimum required backup for most areas; however, the further north your installation site is, the larger the storage will need to be. Five days does not cut it in New York like it does in Texas since the depth of discharge on cold batteries is much larger than in the warmer weather, lowering the life of the battery and increasing down time and maintenance costs. There are also many more overcast days in the north during the winter than in the south. Know the amount of storage that is appropriate for your area and verify that there is enough storage for your systems to operate all winter long.

  1. What type of materials is used in construction?

Materials may not seem like a very important discussion initially, but the way the systems, including the mounting brackets, fixtures, etc. are constructed will determine how long your system will hold up in the field. Marine grade aluminum is one of the best materials used in the industry since it does not corrode or deteriorate and can last as long as the complete system. Other metals, such as steel, tend to rust (unless galvanized) and powder coating the system can also improve the life of the metal as well. Plastics are a definite no-no in the main construction of the system as sunlight tends to break them down and cannot withstand the long lasting needs of a commercial solar lighting system.

  1. What type of pole is the equipment mounting to?

Finally, what type of solar light poles is the equipment mounting to? Is it round? Square? Steel? Aluminum? There are many questions that need to be asked before installation. We never recommend using a square pole since the solar power system needs to face due south and this does not always allow for the fixture and the solar to face the correct directions. A round tapered pole is best as the taper allows for added strength to withstand the added weight and EPA (effective projected area) of the system as a whole. If you purchase the pole from the manufacturer, make sure it will withstand the local AASHTO wind ratings, is made with a long lasting material and compliments your project as a whole.

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

Implementing Solar LED Outdoor Lighting for Commercial Property Saving

Posted by SEPCO

11/4/14 9:30 AM

ABC-Domes-7One of the primary problems facing any commercial business operator is making sure their business stays profitable. If you can't make money you're bound to have trouble keeping a business afloat, it's just the nature of the beast. Of all the things you could do in hopes of cutting costs one that's probably going to be the least detrimental to health of your company is looking into switching out your source of electricity. Standard electric can be a bit costly, not only due to rate increases from whichever company is supplying your power, but also the upkeep of the system and the constant changing of the bulbs in your system. As a result of this cost many businesses have been taking steps to focus more on use of solar LED outdoor lighting systems. These systems will allow you to cut the cost of having to pay one of the power companies for the sake of lighting your business and the surrounding parking area. Solar power is the best option these days due to its cost cutting ability as well as its ability to renew itself day after day. If you're looking for a way to light your business, you can't really do much better than to switch over to solar power instead of standard electricity.

There are a ton of benefits to going solar over standard electricity; one of the primary positives is the fact that the government looks very kindly on people going green. When you choose to go solar in place of a standard electrical hookup you're eligible for certain tax breaks as you're helping to turn around things in favor of the environment. Not only are you able to get apply for, and receive, tax credits for the work you're doing in swapping from standard to solar power, you also may have the opportunity to sign up for grants to pay for your project. If you're looking to make your business turn as solid of a profit as possible you're going to want to go with solar LED outdoor lighting, it's one of the best moves that anyone can do while starting things up. Solar power has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years and it appears that it's growing even more every day, with the potential for printed solar panels on their way to the market soon it would seem that solar will finally become much more affordable than in years past as well.

With the steady stream of companies switching over to the solar power sources for their lighting, one of the top choices has become to go to the LED lights in the system. LED lights are amazing due to their low wattage output while not losing any of their luminosity. LED bulbs have a tendency to be incredibly bright which would help guarantee your location is well once the sun goes down. Between the low wattage use, the high visibility created, and the length of time that the bulbs last you're looking at an incredible cost savings. This is typically one of the biggest expenses a business could have up front; going the solar LED way is the best option to keep your location well lit so that nobody is injured on your property. You've got plenty of choices when it's time to change out your lights, of all those choices, the combination of LED and solar lighting is easily the best bet for saving energy, and more importantly saving money. You can consider your options, but in the end you're not going to find anything better than LED lights run on a solar powered system.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Off Grid Solar Lighting

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, Off Grid Solar 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, Off Grid Solar Lighting

Tips for A Successful Outdoor Solar Lighting Installation

Posted by SEPCO

10/21/14 9:30 AM

DR-Horton-1With the recent trends to go green, there are more and more government and institution outdoor solar lighting installations being undertaken. But how do you know if you've got everything as it should be to install your outdoor solar lighting? Here are some tips on what to consider so that your outdoor solar lighting installation goes smoothly:

Do you have the appropriate building permits in place?

Building permits are more than just an inspection on the safety of your installation itself; it also deals with the systems it is interconnected to, such as whether the framing on your structure is robust enough to handle the weight of your outdoor solar lighting equipment, whether the electrical lines running between your panels, charge controller and light fixtures are installed safely and whether the installation will meet your local codes. By checking with your local building inspector, you can find out if there are any unique permit requirements that you are not otherwise aware of.

What is the minimum amount of sun you get daily during the year?

Getting beautiful, sunny days all summer long doesn't mean that your system will work well in the winter! Usually during the winter months in the U.S., the minimum daily sunlight will affect how many solar panels you'll need to power your installation. From under two hours daily in the northern U.S. to over six in the southwestern U.S., the number of hours your panels can effectively work under will determine how much power can be provided during the shortest days and longest nights every year. If you're on the short end of that range, we can help you develop a customized solution.

Is there excessive dust, snowfall or trees at your project's location?

Though most panels are somewhat self-cleaning because of rain or because the angle the panels are at allows snow to slide off, excessive dust or snowfall can block sunlight and severely limit the amount of power your system can produce. Additional cleaning or maintenance may be required to keep your system functioning at peak performance, which will be safer and easier if the installation is more easily accessible using a shorter structure or pole-mounted system.  Similarly, large shade trees can also prevent sunlight from reaching the panels in a simple setup, especially evergreens. If your project site has issues that may cause dust, snow or shading problems, please let us know. We're more than happy to help you find a customized solution for your project.

By considering your answers to these questions, you'll have dodged the biggest problems that can come up in outdoor solar lighting installations. Thinking ahead and giving careful thought to all the steps of your installation and the future use of your lighting will greatly help the process go as smoothly as possible.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Installation, Off Grid Solar Lighting

Ways to Save Money with Solar Outdoor Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

10/14/14 9:30 AM

Save Money with Solar Outdoor Lighting

When you're running a business you're going to have to light the exterior perimeter of your building, for the safety of any visitors, yourself, and your employees. While you've got plenty of options on how you light those areas, one of the biggest things you need to debate is if you want to aim for something that may be cheaper up front or something that's going to save you more money in the long run. Standard lighting is going to offer you a much lower cost to start, but as time goes on you're going to spend more money on the service being connected at the property than if you aim for a solar powered option. Solar outdoor lighting is going to cost you a much larger up front payment over standard lighting methods, but that's money you'll eventually recoup in savings connected to not having a true light bill for that area. Once the cost of installation is met you begin to take money in as a profit instead of paying a company for electrical service.

Simply going with solar power for electrical service instead of traditional, standard lighting hook up options is a guaranteed money saving method in it's own right. When you add to the equation that you can also look to go with LED lights you're looking at an even greater cost savings. LED lights tend to last a much longer time than incandescent or florescent bulbs, meaning you've got to change them out much less often, meaning you have to buy bulbs far less often than if you go with either of the other options. Also, LED lights run at a much lower wattage than the other lights as well, creating another savings as you're not only cutting out the light bill but also with the lower wattage it means that the bulbs are burning much less energy themselves, this is where the benefit of a longer bulb life is born. Cutting down on the money you spend on purchasing multiple bulbs every year, on top of the savings of not paying an electrical bill thanks to your solar lighting, you'll be on your way to a major profit.

One more benefit for switching out to solar power is that you'll be able to get a tax break for making that decision. Energy conservation has become very big as of late and a move to solar power is right in line with this movement. Tax credits are available for those who decide to go the route of solar power until the end of 2016, so they won't be around forever, which makes taking advantage of them now that much more important. Since your project would be occurring after 2009 there is no cap on the available rebate from tax credits, until the end of 2008 you were capped at a $2000 maximum. The tax credit is for 30% of the full cost of the system, and without a cap you can aim for the absolute best available option and get a sizable price break on it thanks to your government incentives. No matter how you look at it, swapping from standard electrical services to a solar powered system is the best way to ensure that your business is turning a profit year over year. At the end of the day, using solar power is the obvious best answer, instead of burning the Earth down one little incandescent bulb at a time.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Off Grid Solar Lighting

Give Me 10 Minutes, I’ll Give You 3 Truths About Solar Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

10/9/14 9:30 AM

SolarLighting1.jpg-1There is a lot of information bouncing around about solar lighting. Some people love it, some people don’t. There are many pros and cons with solar lighting, but the one thing that always seems to get lost in the shuffle is the reason behind using solar lighting systems. Here are some truths behind solar lighting:

  1. Truth – You want a green option, but can justify the costs.

The initial costs behind a quality commercial solar lighting system can be daunting; however, incentives are available that help lower the costs. Also, take into account the lack of electric bill and very limited maintenance costs that are needed for the next 25+ years. With rising costs of dirty energy sources and lowering resources of these forms of energy, solar is a great option and the costs can easily be justified.

  1. Truth – What do you do when there is no power nearby?

When no power exists nearby, there are two options: trench in standard electric or install solar lighting systems. Trenching in power is a costly expense, not just bringing the power where it is needed, but also all the damage that needs to be repaired from the trenching. Will this tear up a parking lot or roadway? What about additional construction that may be done in the future, will it damage the underground wiring that you just brought to the site? Solar lighting systems are all in one systems and do not require underground trenching or wiring that can be disturbed over time or damage a property. Everything is on a single pole and completely stand alone from the other lights.

  1. Truth – I have electric already, but want to look at using solar instead.

This is typically not a justifiable cost since there is electric already at the site. Using off grid solar lights when there is already electrical lights won’t really save you anything immediately. The payoff or ROI is quite long when electric already exists. There are a couple things you can do to provide a green solution while not having to go completely off grid. The first thing that needs to happen is switching to LED fixtures to lower the power consumption. Next, you can switch to grid tied solar lighting systems that feed the grid during the day and then the lights draw from the grid at night. If done right, you can have a NET Zero project that is sized properly so you generate during the day what you use at night. Finally, you can use a battery backup system where the grid and solar work together to charge the batteries and then the lights operate off the batteries at night.

Solar isn’t for everyone, but it is a great alternative to standard electric power. There is never a “one size fits all” solution, especially with solar lighting, but working with a knowledgeable solar lighting company or representative will ensure that you get the best bang for your buck. Make sure you know all the truths about your project before you make the final decision.

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

My Pole or Yours? Why Solar Light Poles Differ

Posted by SEPCO

10/7/14 9:30 AM

Solar Light PolesSo you are looking to purchase and install a solar lighting system; however, you are now having to decide if you should source a pole locally or get the one that comes with the system. Poles can be a large expense of any solar light project; however, there is good reasoning behind the costs associated with a pole provided by the manufacturer of the solar lighting system. Here are the differences:

1. The solar light poles that are provided by the solar lighting system manufacturer is typically specified to hold the weight of the solar power system. These poles are stronger and can tolerate more of a load than just any pole.

2. They also provide additional support for the effective projected area (EPA) for wind loads in certain areas, especially along the coast. Certain areas require that a pole handle a specific EPA for a specific wind load. By customizing the system with a pole that can provide the strength to handle the wind events will ensure that your system will still be standing, even after a storm.

3. The poles are built to last as long as the system operates, which can be 25 years or longer. I have seen poles needing to be replaced since they did not use quality poles in my area on standard lighting systems. The amount of trenching and construction that was required to replace all these poles was just a waste. Providing quality poles in the beginning would have provided a much longer life than the five or so years these were installed.

There are many varieties of poles, and depending on the needs of your project, a custom pole option can easily be provided. From direct burial, anchor base and transformer base poles to steel, aluminum, even fiberglass; each pole can be designed to withstand the solar weight and EPA to provide a long lasting system.

Sometimes there are existing poles on a project. These poles are typically not a good idea as they are not built to withstand additional weight of the solar. You can install the solar nearby on an additional pole or speak with the original pole company to decide whether or not this will withstand the additional weight and EPA.

If you want to source your own pole, make sure to ask your system engineer to provide you the weight and EPA of your system and pass this information along to your pole company. They will ensure that your system will be standing for years to come.

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

Solar LED Lights Provide Security and Reduce Energy Consumption

Posted by SEPCO

10/2/14 9:30 AM

Solar LED LightsMost lighting installations in the past have used high pressure sodium lamps; however, these lamps produce a yellowish light that does not allow for good visibility. Using LED lights provide a whiter and more natural light to provide better lighting overall, and even though they look brighter, are much dimmer than the old HPS lamps. This provides a great cost savings since the amount of power required to light these fixtures is much less with a much lower power loss factor.

The US Department of Transportation recently did a study in July 2014 Maximizing Pedestrians’’ Perception of Safety Using Light Source Spectrum that reviews the differences between the old style HPS lamps and the new LED light sources. The study shows how lighting is perceived by pedestrians in urban and suburban areas that need to walk along the roadways at night. They found that people felt safer and more secure when the LED light sources were used even though the light levels were reduced from the old HPS lamps.

As roadway lighting accounts for 51 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year, switching to LEDs can save upwards of 30% of energy on just the lighting of our roads. If the switch to solar LED lights was the next step, and due to the lower power use of LEDs and the fact that there is less power loss as LEDs run off DC power, they would be the next logical step to reducing the electricity use of the US. Pulling the lights off the grid, or installing only solar LED lights in new installations would be the best way to reduce the power and provide a clean alternative to the standard electrical lights.

High Pressure Sodium Lights

Off grid solar lighting is not always an option; however, adding solar panels to the light poles like they have done in New Jersey would also work to reduce our power consumption while increasing our energy efficiency all over. This is not the best solution; however, it is a start in the right direction. While solar power continues to grow, a move towards solar LED lights will increase the safety and security while providing a zero energy option for new installations; therefore, not adding to our already extended use of grid power.

In the end, switching to LED lighting will reduce our power consumption and provide additional safety and security to pedestrians and drivers. Increased visibility is always a great thing and LED lights will provide the needed lighting levels to do so.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Street Lighting, Off Grid Solar Lighting

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