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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

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

Wattage vs Lumens: Know the Difference for Better Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

7/10/14 9:30 AM

Wattage-vs-LumensWith the push for LED lighting, there is a lot to take into consideration now for lighting levels. One of the biggest arguments is a light Wattage versus the Lumens and determining brightness. The old way of looking at how bright a light will be is to look at the wattage; the higher the wattage the lamp is, the brighter it is. Now we need to focus on the Lumens of the lamp to determine the brightness of the lamp.

What is Wattage of a Light?

The Wattage of the light is the amount of energy it takes to produce a certain amount of light. The higher the wattage, the brighter the light, but also the more power it uses. The efficiency of this system was introduced using incandescent lamps.

For instance:

  • 40 Watt lamp produces only 380-460 lumens and uses 40 Watts of energy per hour.
  • 100 Watt lamp produces 1700 – 1800 lumens and uses 100 Watts of energy per hour.
  • Direct sunlight is around 100k lumens and uses no amount of energy per hour.

This was an inefficient way of lighting and there have been many advances, such as the introduction of fluorescent and compact fluorescent lighting as well as metal halide, low pressure sodium and high pressure sodium. Fluorescent and compact fluorescent produce better lighting with lower wattage. Metal halide, LPS and HPS produce better lighting, but typically using much higher wattage.

What is a Lumen of Light?

A lumen is the amount of light a certain lamp gives off. If replacing a standard 150 Watt light bulb which gives off around 2600 Lumens, using a 35 Watt LED is about the equivalent. This lowers the needed power of the light by over a quarter of the required power to produce the same light. A 70 Watt LED fixture can produce 5000 Lumens or more and replace most highway and parking lot lighting fixtures to a more efficient and cost effecting light. This is becoming more efficient every day.

Why this is important to solar lighting

Solar lighting needs to take into consideration both the Lumens and the Wattage of a lamp. The wattage provides the needed power from the solar power and battery system to power the solar light fixture for the required amount of time and the Lumens determines how much light is given off by the lamp. The more efficient the fixture or lamp is, the more efficient the solar and the lower the cost of the complete system. Solar lights are also typically lower to the ground and then can produce more lighting with a lower Watt lamp and using a higher Lumen efficiency. Want to know more about solar and LED lighting, check out: Why Solar Power and LED Lighting Makes a Perfect Combination

In the end, taking into consideration the lighting levels and Lumens over the Wattage of the lamp will provide a more energy efficient lighting system. Higher Lumen and lower Wattage lamps, especially with LEDs, will provide the best lighting with the lowest energy costs.
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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting, LED Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Commercial Solar Flood Lighting at Docks & Boat Ramps for Safety

Posted by SEPCO

7/8/14 9:30 AM

Most boaters like to go out early mornings or late nights to get the best catch. Lighting up the boat ramps and docks provide safety and security to boaters leaving while it is dark. The lights will help indicate where boat ramps are and allow for easy visibility at night to lower accident rates and provide a safer environment while they are loading and unloading boat trailers. They will also allow easy visibility of docks to reduce accidents when taking off on the water.

Tibor-Reserve-2Boat ramps and docks are typically in rural areas and do not readily have access to grid power. Stand alone solar powered lighting systems can easily adapt to these environments and provide the lighting without grid extensions and trenching through parks and preserves. They also provide a green alternative and lower the need for dirty forms of energy in these natural environments.

The solar light for boat ramps is typically an overhead flood style light to provide large area illumination. Single our double fixture configurations can be used, and with swivel heads, can point in any direction on the pole. 

Dock solar lights can be run along the dock itself or using overhead fixtures. The solar for the dock lighting can be mounted directly on the dock or on a pole nearby. The lights can use bright white lighting or wildlife friendly lighting, depending on the needs of the area. 

We have completed many boat ramp and dock projects all over the US. These systems have been configured for different environments and adapt well to harsh winters of the north to the salty waters of coastal areas. The lights can be configured to run from dusk to dawn or even be operated by a motion sensor or switch to lower the power needs. Large flood fixtures are perfect for lighting up the large area, and by using energy efficient LED technology, there is much better lighting provided for better visibility.

The lights can also be used in the parking lots nearby to keep personal vehicles and trailers safe and well illuminated while people are enjoying the area and loading and unloading vehicles and equipment. The lighting can also be installed for park restrooms and other nearby structures such as pavilions and along walkways, all of which does not disturb the natural landscape.

Need solar lighting for you boat ramp or dock? Contact us today for a free project evaluation and quote.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Boat Ramp Lighting, Dock Lighting

What Do You Get With Your Solar Lighting Quotation?

Posted by SEPCO

6/26/14 9:30 AM

Solar_Quote.jpgYou’ve been doing your research, looking at all possible avenues and have decided it is time to get a quote for your solar lighting project. What information do you think you should get with that quote? Well here is what you can expect to receive if you get a quote from SEPCO.

 

Pricing

Obviously the first think you should expect is pricing. Our quotes are laid out for you to easily understand and include all necessary information about the product you are looking at purchasing. Each part number is broken up into sections with an accurate description for each section so you know exactly what you are receiving in the end. At times, multiple options are included on a single quote for you to choose the best design for your project.

 

Specifications

A specification sheet for each part of the system is always included in every proposal sent out. These sheets provide to give valuable information for each piece of the system and what you can expect from the final product. You may also receive lighting layouts and a rendering of the final project if this was requested.

 

Warranty Information

Our most updated warranty sheet is always included with all pricing quotes. These warranties are from the day of shipping and will be upheld without question if you ever experience trouble. We have technicians here to help you with everything from installation to troubleshooting any issues that may happen in the future.

 

References

Our reference sheet is constantly updated and available for you to review. Our references include some of our projects, large and small. If you are ever looking for something nearby, just ask us and we can provide a more local reference for your area.

 

Amazing Customer Service

Every one of our team has been hand-picked and trained to serve our customers from time of first contact, purchase and 10/20/30 years down the road. If there is ever a question, contact us and we will walk you through anything that you may need.

 

Support

Our support team can help you with everything from ordering the correct replacement part, upgrading your existing system or troubleshooting any issues that may arise. Our support staff has had in depth training on all our systems and knows the inner workings of every component.

What other items have you received in the past with your quotations? What other information do you think should be included?

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Solar Bus Stop and Shelter Design for a Brighter Transit System

Posted by SEPCO

6/12/14 9:30 AM

SEPCO has been working on improving our current bus stop and bus shelter lighting products. Our new design combines some of the best features of our standard solar lighting systems and new ideas for a perfect combination for bus stops and bus shelters, both integrating into existing areas and for new installations.

Solar Bus Stop Design

Solar Bus Stop Design

Our new bus stop design provides all night or push button lighting for bus stops. Our high powered ING LED fixture is integrated and recessed into a battery assembly for vandal resistance and provides down-lighting with no light pollution to other areas.

The solar panel assembly sits at a 45 degree angle for maintenance free cleaning of the solar panel by rain and does not allow for snow buildup in the winter. A typical flat panel designs collect dust and debris and requires regular maintenance and cleaning of the solar panel. The 45 degree angle also provides the most solar radiance compared to a flat panel system that only can grab the solar rays when the sun is high in the sky.

The solar panel assembly also easily mounts to a pole with U-Bolts that are integrated into the panel bracket and slip over the top of the pole and tighten down. Best of all, the entire assembly is easily adjustable up or down the pole for variations required due to ambient lighting.

Solar Bus Shelter Design

Solar Bus Shelter Design

Our new bus shelter design provides mounting of the solar panel assembly either on the roof or on a pole nearby. The light fixtures are integrated within a one piece unit to include all control electronics and batteries that mounts directly to the roof of the bus shelter. A single or double fixture application can be easily achieved without compromising aesthetics. The solar panel can be mounted at a 45 degree angle on a nearby pole or on the angled side of the roof that faces south. This keeps the panel clean and reduces maintenance.

Both the solar bus stop and bus shelter designs are perfect for integrating into an existing transit application or for new installations. Bus shelter systems can be integrated into any bus shelter unit and can even provide power to advertising panels and schedule boards. The bus stop lights can easily be installed at any bus stop and provide the safety to travelers at night.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Bus Stop Lighting, Bus Shelter Lighting

Light up that Double Sided Sign with a Single Solar System

Posted by SEPCO

6/10/14 9:30 AM

Not all signs face one direction. Some are sideways along a roadway to show information to people traveling in either direction. There are also ones that show a welcome on the entrance side and a thank you on the exit side. No matter what your sign says, lighting it at night will provide the information to the passersby’s no matter when they go by.

Rio-Monument-Sign-1

You can mount a single solar array to power a fixture on both sides of the sign. This design doubles the amount of solar required; however, it will provide the best option for these types of signs. Having a solar for each fixture doubles the maintenance and overall cost of the system.

Mediterranean-HOA-1

You can even do the same with an internally illuminated sign that shines the light out through both sides evenly. Either with LEDs or Fluorescent lamps, a single solar power system can provide the power for the light fixtures to provide lighting for both sides of a sign.

US-EPA-Facility

The solar power assembly can be located beside the sign, attach to the top of the sign, or even be placed up to 100 feet away so as to allow direct sunlight all day. The solar power system should be sized to provide a minimum of five days autonomy to allow for times of inclement weather and never allow your sign to be left in the dark. So next time you need that double sided sign lit up, consider using solar power to provide the needed energy and a green solution. 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Sign Lighting

6 Steps for Businesses Who Are Ready to Light Their Parking Lots

Posted by SEPCO

5/29/14 9:30 AM

Parking_Lot

Want to provide more safety and security to customers and employees? Provide good lighting to prevent theft and vandalism. Here are six steps to completing a lighting project for a business parking lot.

Step 1 – Identify the area that is requiring lighting

What is the total size of your parking lot? How many cars can it fit? Does the parking lot wrap around your building or is it just to the front? Identifying the entire area that needs to be lit is the first step in the design process whether the parking lot already exists or is still in development and design phases.

Step 2 – Determine how long the lights need to operate

Is your business open all night or just until 10pm? When do the employees go home? When does it open in the morning? Does the parking lot require all night lighting or can they shut off a couple hours after your business closes and then on again before it opens? The less the lights have to operate, the lower the power usage will be. Even cutting back 3-4 hours a night can provide a drastic change to the energy requirements.

Step 3 – Research the lighting requirements of your area

Different cities have different lighting requirements, especially for businesses. Contact your local municipality to find out what their lighting requirements for your business are. Higher lighting levels can be required in more urban areas where lower lighting levels can sometimes be used in rural areas. Knowing standard IES requirements are also a great place to start when looking into lighting levels.

Step 4 – Speak to your lighting designer

Now that you have determined the area you need illuminated, the time the lights need to operate and the lighting requirements, it is time to talk to your lighting designer. They will help you determine the best fixture, height of fixture mounting, placement, etc. to complete the project successfully. They should also provide you a lighting layout to show you how your design will look once installed.

Step 5 – Figure where the poles would need to be installed

Once you receive your layout from the lighting designer make sure it fits well within the parking lot. Double check and see if poles are going to be installed in medians, on the edge of the roadway, in-between spaces, etc. This is also a good time to determine if you want to use an anchor base or direct burial pole, if the pole needs a foundation, and many other factors that can vary before final installation.

Step 6 – Decide if you want to use solar powered parking lot lights

The final step is to decide if you want solar powered parking lot lights or standard grid tied electrical lights. If your parking lot already exists or is still in development and planning phases, and there is no electric existing where the lights need to be installed, opt for a solar powered solution. This will cost less than bringing in the power lines, especially when trenching the lines or tearing up existing concrete, while also providing you lower costs overall as there will be no electric bill ever for the lighting.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Eagle Scout Honors Veterans Lighting Freedom Rock at Night with Solar

Posted by SEPCO

5/22/14 9:30 AM

Freedom_Rock_1

Recently SEPCO took part in supplying Eagle Scout David S. with solar lighting for a project he did for his local Eagle Scout troop in Greenfield Iowa. Out on Hwy 25 stands an old graffiti rock that artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen began to paint yearly since 1999 on Memorial Day each year.  Sorensen paints the rock with his own money along with donations and sales of Freedom Rock merchandise.  The purpose of this rock is to pay respect and thank U.S. veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice to our country.  Over the years word of the rock spread and it has become a popular site for tourist and most notably veterans to visit each year. Looking through previous years images of the rock it is amazing that one person is responsible for such a beautiful sight.

Freedom_Rock_2

Last year David contacted SEPCO with his idea to relight the rock using solar lighting versus the single mercury vapor light that was failing. The old light did not do the rock much justice and was dim and needed to be replaced. The rock is visited both day and night primarily by motorcyclist traveling the road. Lighting at night of the rock is very important so the failing light needed replaced.  After meeting with the local co-op that manages the fixture David was given the go ahead to start his project, the co-op even volunteering to install the new equipment once it arrives.

Freedom-Rock-3

David’s project was recently finished and shortly after the install storms rolled in putting the lighting to the test from the first day. The light is working great and has been a great new addition to the Freedom Rock, SEPCO is proud to be a part of this project.   This has brought more attention to solar lighting in the area prompting others to inquire about what we can do for them.  We are glad we can help light the earth one solar light at a time. 

Freedom_Rock_at_Night

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Landscape Lighting

Making Your Community Green and Reduce Costs

Posted by SEPCO

5/15/14 9:30 AM

Communities all across America are trying to improve their green image and reduce costs, but some are having a hard time figuring out where to start. Here are some ideas that can help improve your community and lower overall costs in the end.

  1. CommunitySolarLighting.jpgBuild LEED – new buildings, either commercial or residential, should be done to the highest green standards. Using high efficient HVAC systems, energy efficient building materials such as Low-E or thermal windows, plenty of insulation and energy star qualified appliances will lower the energy pull for every building.
  2. Remodel to Higher Standard – the same as above can be used for remodels. Sometime the integrity of the original construction is what the community wants to preserve, but this doesn’t mean energy efficient improvements can’t be made.
  3. Use Solar Lightingsolar lighting can be installed anywhere since no electrical grid is needed. Solar lights for signs, parking lots, streets, billboards, etc. will lower the costs to the electrical company and provide more sustainable lighting systems.
  4. Provide More Bike Lanes and Sidewalks – people are becoming more eco-conscious and are doing things on their own. One of the largest issues is traffic for bikers. If communities would install more bike lanes or sidewalks where people can safely travel, more people will chose to use their own two legs to power themselves where they need to go.
  5. Promote Local Farming – if there is farm land nearby, promote using these farms for local restaurants and grocery stores instead of importing produce and meat from far away. The quality is usually better and lower transportation costs.
  6. Install Recycling Bins – Instead of just having trash cans everywhere, put recycling bins out as well. By making recycling easy, more people would be inclined to actually do it, even the not so eco-conscious.

Just doing some simple things will provide a much greener community. What steps has your community taken to improve its green image and lower costs?

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Green Ideas, Clean Energy, Recycling

Why a Minimum of Five Days Autonomy is Important for Off Grid Solar

Posted by SEPCO

5/13/14 9:30 AM

Off-Grid-SolarI am often asked why a minimum of five days autonomy is used when sizing off grid solar power systems for lighting or remote power locations is used, so I figured I’d write a quick post about this to explain. There are a lot of factors that go into sizing off grid solar lighting systems, but one of the most important factors is autonomy. Here’s why:

Sometimes the sun doesn’t come out tomorrow

There are times where it is overcast or rainy all day. There is always some solar radiation hitting the earth no matter what, but you can’t always guarantee it will fully charge the battery back to full. At night, the lights will turn on, and by ensuring there is at least five days autonomy will ensure that your lights will run still even after a couple overcast and cloudy days. No one wants to be left in the dark after some bad weather.

Batteries need to last to make the system cost efficient

Rechargeable batteries come with a number of cycles. To make the batteries last, using only a fraction of the power out of them before recharging them will make sure they last longer than if drained to completion after every use. Using such items as a low voltage disconnect and oversizing the batteries for at least five days, seven or more in areas with low sun, can ensure the batteries will last the full five to seven years. This lowers the maintenance of the system and reduces the number of times you have to replace the batteries.

Temperature will affect your battery

Heat and cold both effect battery life and need to be considered when sizing off grid solar. Sizing for a minimum of five days makes sure there is plenty of power for times of extreme heat and cold, making sure the systems work properly.

After all is said and done, a minimum of five days autonomy will ensure your systems work under almost any condition. Remember, if you are in the far north, sizing for seven days or more would be recommended as the winter provides less sun and harsher conditions than southern areas. So next time you are looking for an off grid solar light or power system, make sure you are getting a properly sized battery bank to keep the system running perfectly all year round.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Power, Battery Storage, Solar Lighting Design

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