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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

Planning and Budgeting For Your Commercial Solar Lighting Project

Posted by SEPCO

9/23/14 9:30 AM

Planning_Budgeting_Commerical_Solar_Lighting_ProjectPurchasing a good quality commercial solar lighting system can be a daunting task and the numbers alone can make you cringe. The savings are sometimes missed when you are looking at the initial costs of a project. But don’t be disconcerted, there is are ways to help budget your commercial solar lighting projects and make them more affordable. Here are a few tips that can help make or break your project.

1. Find out what your budget is and tell your specifier in the beginning stages of the project. If they know what your budget is, they will be more apt to follow with that then just quote you whatever they think will work. Giving them something to go on takes away the initial sticker shock of a purchase and allows them to work within your budget when designing the initial project.

2. If you don’t have a budget planned out, but you want to find a way to lower the costs from what the original quote was, check out incentives for using renewable energy. There are grants and tax incentives available for just about any business looking to use solar lighting for their facility. Some great resources are: The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE), Department of Energy and contacting your local power company for additional information.

3. Complete the project in phases when the entire project cannot be purchased all at once. Breaking the project down to ensure that the most appropriate and important part of the project can be completed first will allow you to budget better for the overall project and break up the investment over time.

4. Don’t forget to take into consideration the short and long term costs associated with a commercial solar lighting project such as installation and maintenance. Review all documents to ensure that the company stands by their product with a warranty and provides you’re the length of coverage for each component, not just a system as a whole. Since different parts of the system have a range of life span, the warranty should reflect this and not just be an overall warranty on the product.

These are some of the best tips to making sure your commercial solar lighting project stays within your budget and the project is finished with great success. Working with your solar lighting specifier will ensure that your project will meet your needs and not kill your bottom line. 

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

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

How to Efficiently Use Solar Flood Lights for Security Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

9/2/14 9:30 AM

Solar Flood LightUsing solar flood lights around a perimeter of a building can increase security, but these bright lights do not need to operate at all times. Since most security flood lights shine outward and cover a large area, they can use a lot of power and produce glare or light trespass on nearby areas. There are different ways to utilize solar security flood lights around a building without disturbing the nearby area, keep the area secure and not breaking the bank. Here are a few options to consider.

1. Motion Activated Solar Flood Lights

Having the security lighting off unless motion is detected is one of the most popular setups available for solar flood lights. These use the least amount of power as the lights are only operational when they are needed. Once the motion is gone, the lights turn back off after a period of time. This option offers the lowest cost and least amount of light trespass as the lights can perform exactly as needed to secure the perimeter of a building for surveillance.

2. Lower Light Levels that Motion to Full Brightness

If all night lighting is required, having the security flood fixtures at a low wattage to provide enough lighting to see, but not out a large distance from the perimeter. Then, when motion is detected, these lights turn way up to max brightness to provide the distance lighting for security purposes. Once motion has stopped, the lights go back to their original lower wattage to keep the area properly lit. This option, though using more power, can provide all night lighting for people that are constantly surveillancing the area or use cameras without night vision.

Solar Security Light System

3. Adaptive Lighting Solar Flood Lights

Having the lights come on at dusk and stay on for a couple hours, then go down to a lower wattage and be motion activated for the remainder of the night is the final option to cover. These types of applications will use the most amount of power as the lights need to be powered almost all night at full intensity with only a period of time during the late night to be using a lower wattage.

Those are the three most efficient methods of using solar flood lights for security purposes around a building. This doesn’t mean you cannot keep your security flood lights on all night at full intensity, but for the most efficient solar security light systems, allowing the lights to be adaptive to the environment and the circumstance will lower the solar power requirements without having to lose out on any of the security features.
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Topics: Security Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

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

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