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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

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

Solar Parking Lot Retrofit for St Augustine Beach Pier Park

Posted by SEPCO

7/15/14 9:30 AM

St-Augustine-3

In January of 2012 the City of St Augustine Beach issued plans for the re-lighting of the Pier Park parking lot. The project was officially called “City of St Augustine Beach FL Pier Park lighting retrofit” for the parking lot. The City had just recently completed the construction of a community pavilion and a new sea / beach walkway that ran between the parking lot and beach. The previous use for the area was just a parking lot for access to the pier. With the addition of the pavilion and walkway, with the pier, the area now has a park setting where families can enjoy the beach and picnic in the pavilion. The City also now uses the area for community events, such as arts shows, small outdoor concerts and food events.

St-Augustine-4

SEPCO worked together with WFLI in Jacksonville to complete the lighting design for the City of St Augustine Beach. The existing lighting consisted of randomly placed 20ft wood poles that had 100 watt high pressure sodium cobra-head style lighting fixtures mounted to them. The new lighting design approach was to use full cut-off LED fixtures of a contemporary style to compliment the pavilion and new landscaping with the following design considerations:

  •          Appropriate pole and luminaire mounting heights.
  •          Pole shape that allowed for various mounting conditions.
  •          Height of solar panels.
  •          Height of adjacent palm trees.
  •          Light source color for general parking area and turtle friendly areas.
  •          Orientation of site on north-south axis.
  •          Luminaire  requirements of having AC and DC drivers.

The height of the new palm trees was determined to be approximately 22 to 24 feet. Our design intent was to have the height of the solar panels be just above the height of the palm trees to ensure sunlight was not blocked. The six poles that had the solar arrays mounted on top of them were 5ft higher than the other AC powered poles. The mounting height of the luminaires was to be 15ft for all fixtures. A round tapered concrete pole was selected for is durability and appearance. This shape pole also allowed for proper southward facing solar panels regardless of which direction the luminaire faced.

St-Augustine-5

The overall project requirements called for 38 LED fixtures, 6 of which were the amber LED.  Along the sea walkway, the lighting there was to utilize the same LED fixture but using amber LED’s to comply with the turtle friendly lighting requirements. The light levels were designed to IESNA recommendations of 1.0fc average. The LED fixture selected used 73 watts of power. The LED driver used in the fixture was standard 0-10 volt dimming. A 5K color temperature with CRI of 80 was used for the parking area and a 2K color 580nm amber LED used for the sea walk area.

The City had applied to the Department of Energy for a grant to utilize solar power for a portion of this project. They were awarded a grant which allowed them to have 6 of the 38 LED fixtures powered by solar array panels. The 6 fixtures selected for solar power were the ones in the middle of the parking lot as they were the first to be seen upon entry to the parking lot. The project shows the Cities desire to promote “green” initiatives and integrate solar powered lighting as often as possible.

St-Augustine-6

In addition to the use of LED lighting, part of the project scope was to use a lighting control system that allowed automatic control of the light levels for the standard AC wired fixtures.The AC light fixtures, due to their use of the grid power, dim to 50% intensity part of the night to reduce the standard electrical power consumption. The off grid solar lights utilize enough energy from the solar to provide 100% intensity all night without using any energy from the grid.

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Topics: SEPCO News & Information, Parking Lot 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

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

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

The Worst Advice We've Ever Heard about Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

5/20/14 9:30 AM

There are a lot of different ideas in the lighting industry about what good advice is and what is bad. Here is a quick overview of some of the worst lighting advice we’ve ever heard and why.

Light levels don’t matter

LightingMisconceptions.jpgLight levels are important to any lighting project. If you can’t see what you need to, then the light is useless. Light levels need to be taken into consideration. If it is a sign people need to be able to read it. If it in a parking lot safety and security is the primary concern. Light levels vary from project to project and must be task specific. You don’t want you back yard lit up like the middle of the afternoon, but you also don’t want a parking lot so dimly lit that if you drop your keys at night you can’t find them.

Color doesn’t matter

Have you ever looked at those yellow lights that you see along the highway? Compared to crisper white light, they are strenuous on your eyes. You are used to seeing things in the daylight, and sunlight is about 5900-7500 Kelvin. Granted at night you don’t need the sun shining down on you to see, but you want to see as close to natural light as possible for your eyes to recognize things. With the amber colored low pressure sodium lamps you can hardly tell the color of a car, but with whiter light produced by LEDs, you can easily recognize colors, shapes and details much easier. Granted, in environmental conditions, like coastal areas, low pressure sodium or amber light is necessary to reduce the impact on wildlife.

The higher the wattage, the better the light

Every application needs different lighting levels, but a higher wattage light does not always produce better light. LEDs provide amazing light at much lower wattages than any other type of lamp. You also don’t want a huge bright spot light on a small sign or a huge high powered flood light for a roadway that potentially blinds travelers. Instead, using the right wattage light to provide the task specific lighting will save money as there will be no wasted energy. It will also be easier on your eyes.

You need full intensity light all night long

Security purposes require full intensity lighting to happen all night; however, a lot of applications allow for a dimming option. Between certain hours of the night, wasting the energy on full intensity lighting when no one is there is just that, a waste. Instead, if the area still requires lighting, dimming the fixtures down, which is now possible with LEDs, can save money while still providing some light. There can even be motion activators in the area to bring the lights back to full intensity when there are people in the area. Having the lights suddenly spike back to full intensity would also alert anyone nearby that there is someone in the area triggering the lights.

So there you have it. What advice have you ever questioned that you have gotten about lighting?
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Topics: General Lighting, LED Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

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

Solar Street Light Components: What’s in Your System?

Posted by SEPCO

5/6/14 9:30 AM

StreetLightComponentsThere are many components involved in creating a solar street light system. What components are used can make or break a system over time. Here is a quick overview of what components are used in most typical solar street light systems. Note that not all manufactures use the same components in their solar street lighting systems.

Solar Panel Assembly

The solar panel assembly is comprised of many parts. There is no simple way to just stick a solar panel on a pole. Brackets and mounting apparatuses are required to make this happen. A raw solar panel is only comprised of the solar cells, glass and framework. In addition to that, a mounting solar bracket assembly must be installed on the solar panel to attach to a pole. We even suggest making sure the rear of the panel is protected by a vented panel pan for additional protection against wind-blown debris and vandalism.

 

Solar Battery Assembly

The solar battery assembly includes the batteries and wiring to hook to the solar panel assembly and light fixture. The batteries need to be sized for a minimum of five days autonomy to provide a longer life span for the batteries while also providing energy to the system when there is little or no sun due to inclement weather. The battery assembly should be housed inside a vented battery box to provide heat ventilation and preferably located under the solar for additional shade so the batteries don’t get overheated.

Light Controls

The light controls are located typically inside the battery box. This provides the on and off functionality of the solar street light system. The controls also operate the correct profile of the system for customization of run times. The light controller also should provide a low voltage disconnect (LVD) in case the battery gets drained to a critical point to make sure the battery does not ever go down to zero, again increasing the life of the battery system. There are many light control options ranging from dusk to dawn, dusk for a number of hours and beyond. Talk to your solar lighting professional for project specific controls.

Light Fixture

Today LED fixtures are the most popular pairing when it comes to solar street lights; however, other lamp options are still available. The light fixture should provide the needed light levels on the ground for easy visibility. Picking out the style of fixture, distribution pattern and light level requirements is the first step to ensuring you will get the solar lighting system you need for your street lighting application. LEDs broaden the range of style fixtures from standard street light Cobrahead fixtures to decorative pendant style fixture and everywhere in between.

Fixture Mounting Bracket

The fixture mounting bracket is provided to mount the fixture to a pole. The fixture mounting bracket can range from a few inches to quite a few feet out from the pole. The fixture mounting bracket will set the fixture out away from the pole to provide the light where it is needed on the ground. The bracket can be straight, have an upsweep, or can even be decorative depending on the architectural needs of the lighting project.

Pole

The pole is the final component to any successful solar street light system. The pole needs to be strong enough to support the solar and tall enough for the solar to mount above the fixture, but ensuring the fixture is mounted at the correct height for the best light spread on the ground. In certain areas, the pole needs to meet AASHTO wind load requirements with the solar.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

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