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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

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

Important Tips Linked To Solar Street Light Manufacturer Selection

Posted by SEPCO

3/27/14 9:30 AM

SolarStreetLightManufacturer.jpgWith the pressure on to conserve energy, many companies and local authorities are installing solar powered street lights. These lights not only help save money, but also help reduce the pressure on power generation plants thus helping reduce greenhouse emission production. It also helps reduce pressure on the power grid thus helping divert the energy to other sectors and industries which need it more. When planning to purchase a large number of solar street lights, it’s important to keep certain factors in mind so as to select the right solar street light manufacturer and brands. Below are some of these factors which will help make more informed decisions:

The amount of light required

Street lights are meant to light up large areas thus requiring the solar lights to be bright. It’s important the radius each light eliminates be taken in to consideration thus allowing the distance between lights to be calculated. This makes it possible to determine the number of solar street lights that are required and helps estimate the cost. The larger the radius covered by each light, the fewer the number of solar street lights you need, thus helping reduce solar street light purchase and installation costs.

Solar light maintenance tips

It’s important to keep in mind that street lights are a public utility and therefor tend to be mishandled. This makes it important to select solar street light which is made using strong materials which will prolong the usable life.

Insect and animals management

Keep in mind that the lights tend to be an insect attraction and require to be completely sealed to prevent insects and other animals seeking shelter inside the lights. It’s common to find small animals like rats and squirrels finding their way in to street lights and making themselves at home since the lights provides a source of warmth during the cold winter nights. Also make sure the lights are strong enough to support extra weight. This is because you are bound to find birds perching on the solar street lights which can result in breaking of the lights.

Preventing and avoiding corrosion

The materials used to make the lights also require being corrosion resistant to prevent deterioration over short periods of time. Today, there are several alloys and plastic materials which can be used on the lights to help prevent corrosion. On some parts of the light anti-corrosive materials can be used to coat the metals and prevent any damage from heat and water.

Reduced wiring and maintenance requirements

It’s also important to take the wiring in to consideration to help reduce the maintenance requirements. Today NANO technology has resulted in miniaturizing most electronics including solar street light controls. This means that they have all the required components inside the street light. They have an in-built solar charging unit, battery cells and an automatic light sensor which turn the solar light on and off. Select solar lights which offer a one in all solution thus helping reduce maintenance and repair requirements.

The cost of solar street lighting

When price comes to question, many people will consider just the tag price but with solar street light section several other aspects come in to play. To begin with it’s important to consider the area covered by the lights. Keep in mind that the wider the radius covered results in the requirement of fewer street lights. This makes it important to make the required calculations so as to determine each street lights “light span”. This measurement will help determine the number and eventually the cost of the solar street lights. Also take time to calculate other aspects such as the maintenance and repair costs linked to the solar street lights.

For companies, property developers and local government authorities that purchase a large number of street lights, the above points play an important role towards selecting the right solar light manufacturer, brands or models. Every aspect must be taken in to close consideration to make sure you get the most effective solar street light which delivers abundant lighting and results in the least amount of maintenance requirements.

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Topics: Clean Energy, Street Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Turtle Friendly Decorative LED Solar Street Lights for Bradenton Beach

Posted by SEPCO

10/15/13 10:29 AM

Bradenton-Beach-4Back in 2009, the City of Bradenton Beach decided to utilize renewable energy to lower their city’s electric bill and become more environmentally friendly. As they are a coastal city, there were certain aspects, such as being turtle friendly that needed to be taken into consideration. They also wanted to stay with the architectural nature of their area. With the partnership of Beacon Products, we were able to meet all their requirements and deliver turtle friendly decorative LED solar street lights.

The installation was completed in January 2010. The decorative LED solar lighting systems replaced 100 Watt high pressure sodium lamps with 17 Watt LED fixtures. The fixtures are decorative Urban style fixtures and provide turtle friendly lighting from dusk to dawn, every night, year round. The solar power assembly, mounting bracket, battery box, fixture and pole were all powder coated white to match the surrounding architecture.

Bradenton-Beach-3The solar provides the energy during the day and is stored in the battery assembly. The lights turn on at night and back off at dawn. The fixtures uses site specific optics, full cutoff luminaires and provide amber light that is undetectable to sea turtles. This ensures turtle safety during their breeding periods when they come to shore to lay their eggs as well as when the eggs hatch and the baby sea turtles use stars and the moon to navigate to the ocean.

The lights in Bradenton Beach are a beautiful example of how solar and decorative fixtures work well together to provide the needed lighting for the area while not compromising the architectural looks of an area. These lights will keep looking beautiful year after year while protecting the natural ecosystem of nearby nesting turtles. Definitely a project that is a blast from the past!

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Street Lighting, Decorative Lighting

What Options are Available for Outdoor Solar Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

10/3/13 9:30 AM

Jack-McLean-Park-2In the world of grid connected commercial lighting, there are high installation costs, scheduled and unscheduled maintenance bills, high energy expenses and safety issues. But it doesn't have to be that way. 


Modern outdoor solar lighting has about 1/10th the installation price, there is limited maintenance,  zero energy bills and safety issues are greatly reduced. And, solar lighting is available for a variety of your needs, from parking lots, street lights, area lighting and even such specialized applications like bus and transit stops or industrial applications. 

Take, for example, parking lot lights. With grid supplied lights you'll need to have them professionally installed into your electrical service. Depending on your lot size and whether or not they are a new installation, this may well cost  tens of thousands of dollars. But with solar parking lot lights, you don't tie into the grid. Just put up the pole, orient the solar panel to receive sunlight and you are done. Plus, there is no safer alternative than solar powered parking lot lights. If someone runs into a light pole, there will never be any highly charged and dangerous live wires laying about. And, since it will take years before a battery needs to be replaced, and LED bulbs last virtually forever, having someone go up to "fix" a bad light greatly cuts down on safety concerns. 

Street lighting works the same way. Once they are in place there are no associated electrical costs, there will never be any exposed wires if the pole has been run into, and maintenance becomes a non-issue. 

Local-Transit-4The best outdoor solar lighting applications for commercial area lighting comes with batteries that will hold a charge for 5 full nights. That keeps your area lit up at all times, especially during power outages when there are safety concerns, even if the weather has been cloudy,

Bus and transit stops will always have light with no worry about a bulb burning out, and for industrial applications that require fossil fuel for generators, portable outdoor solar lighting is the answer to reduce costs and bring light to the most remote places where it is needed. 

No matter what your lighting needs are in a commercial setting, there is an outdoor solar lighting option available for you that will save you money, reduce or eliminate maintenance costs and help you go "green" to take advantage of government incentives while becoming eco-conscious. 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting, Bus Stop Lighting

How to Choose a Solar Street Light Manufacturer

Posted by SEPCO

9/17/13 9:30 AM

How to Choose a Solar Street Lights ManufacturerThe industry of solar street lighting manufacturing has advanced immensely from 2008 to today. Many solar companies have emerged as solar lighting experts, but how can you know if the solar street lighting manufacturer is a company that you can rely on? The following five questions will help clients to ask the correct questions to choose the solar street light manufacturing company they can actually count on:

  1. What light fixture are you recommending with the solar assembly? Many manufactures do lighting, but there only a select few that actually are the best in the business. For example; Hubbell, which we provide street lights with our solar assembly, is one of the biggest in this industry. This is a light fixture you can rely on because it comes from a lighting company with experience.
  2. What lighting distributions do you have available? Street lights would usually use a Type II distribution, but not all the scenarios are the same. Maybe you want a Type V rectangular distribution. Do the other solar street light manufacturing companies have this type of distribution? A reputable manufacturer has a variety of lighting distribution to choose from.
  3. Do you have a photometric layout to see how much foot-candle I will have below the light fixture and up to how many feet I would have light? This question is a tricky one because you can have 5 foot-candles below the light fixture but at 20 feet from the light fixture there isn’t any light. That’s where the light distribution comes on handy since you want a great distribution to a big area and not only a spot.
  4. How much battery backup you are offering based in days? Some solar street lights manufactures offer 2 day battery backup which is actually a bad solar system assembly design. Mother Nature doesn’t let us have everyday a sky without gray clouds or even rainy days that are quite dark. So what happens if weather inclement happens for two days?  The street light fixture won’t turn on the third day and that’s why SEPCO battery backup has a minimum of 5 days storage due to inclement weather.
  5. Warranty Document and Customer Service response? The warranties are very important because you don’t want one year warranty for the complete solar street light assembly. Yes, it could be less expensive but do you really want a solar system for one year and pay again. Also, what about the customer service response when you have problems? Check how many installations have been made through that solar street light company and there thoughts.

Anybody can provide service but there is a difference of service and confidence in the product that it is offered. Check the facts always and remember SEPCO will help you in your solar needs from the quotation to the installation. We will always look for exceeding customer service and provide help when you need it the most.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting

Solar Street Light with Sensors for Lower Power Use

Posted by SEPCO

9/3/13 9:30 AM

Solar Street LightSolar street lights are a great way to bring in lighting without having to trench in traditional electrical power; however, they can be costly. There are ways to lower the usage throughout the night and lower the cost of the solar power. Using sensors are one of the best ways to lower the power needs of the solar street light and provide a much faster ROI then ever imagined.

Since people do not typically travel down every road at all times of the night, figuring out the most active times is key to making the sensor street lights work well. The lights would turn on at dusk and run a set number of hours or time of night, say 4 hours or till 11pm. The lights can either then dim to a lower intensity to still provide lighting or turn off entirely. The lights can come back to full intensity when there is movement detected and then dim back when there is no longer movement. They can also come back on for a set number or hours before dawn or at a specific time and run full till dawn.

These types of solar street light application are perfect for neighborhoods and HOAs, even small communities. Use of the sensors can halve the amount of solar needed; therefore, reducing the cost of the solar street light assembly. By lowering the power usage and cost will make solar a more feasible option and help communities be a little greener in the end by reducing their overall electrical usage.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting

Photovoltaic Street Lights Provide Sustainability

Posted by SEPCO

8/13/13 9:30 AM

Photovoltaic Street LightPhotovoltaic street lights are becoming more popular and are popping up all over the world. There are so many benefits to using photovoltaic street lights, but improving sustainability is my personal favorite. Here’s why.

Photovoltaic street lights provides economic sustainability –

By providing a solution that is sustainable, the economy can only benefit. Increasing jobs for development and installation allows for unemployment rates to decrease. Providing a lower utility to the cities and municipalities means tax dollars can be spent on more beneficial applications such as improving schools and other public facilities. And having a green alternative gives the area a sense of pride in helping lower their impact on the environment.

Photovoltaic street lights provides environmental sustainability –

Using photovoltaic street lights provides a reduced reliance on fossil fuels as the power is self-contained and provided daily by the sun. This impact initially lowers emissions into our atmosphere. Also a much forgotten aspect is the lower installation requirements. Since the poles are set with no underground trenching, less heavy equipment is required to complete even the largest installation.

Photovoltaic street lights provides social sustainability –

Using photovoltaic street lights provides a benefit to the future of a community. With global warming and environmental issues coming to a head, using a sustainable source of energy for lighting shows that the community cares about its future. It also provides increased security for the area by providing adequate lighting to areas that may not currently be properly lit. Finally, it allows people to utilize areas after dark for community gatherings.

Providing a sustainable solution in the world today will ensure we are able to provide a better future for tomorrow. With more cities and municipalities moving towards sustainable practices, photovoltaic street lights can help push forward to a future of lowered fossil fuel reliance and overall increase in economic, environmental and social sustainability.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting

4 Factors That Could Affect a Solar Street Light Proposal

Posted by SEPCO

5/14/13 8:30 AM

Solar Street Light ProposalThere are many different factors to consider when putting together a solar street light proposal. Not many people know all the considerations required, but here is a list of a few little-known factors that can make the specification process a little less stressful.

1. Traffic Hours

What are the main traffic hours on the street? Does the traffic become minimal after a certain time? When does the traffic pick up again? If there is little to no traffic between 1 am and 5 am, there are no safety concerns with lowering the wattage of the fixture to conserve energy; therefore, reducing the size of the solar required to run the fixture all night.

2. Shading

Is the main road covered by trees? Solar requires direct sunlight to charge the batteries that operate the fixture at night. By making sure the lights are not going to be installed under shade will prevent future operation issues. If the lights need to be mounted under a tree, the solar can be remotely mounted in a sunny area to keep the light pattern even.

3. Lighting Level Requirements

What are the lighting requirements for the street? Is this a two or four lane street? Depending on the lighting requirements and width of the street can determine how many solar street lights are provided in the proposal. With aimed optics, a wider pattern is available in most applications and can reduce the overall number of fixtures needed. This can affect the overall project proposal cost including both the material and the installation.

4. Mounting Requirements

Are there specified mounting requirements such as wind loading? Making sure your solar is mounted to the appropriate pole can change many aspects of the proposal. Wind loading ratings are used in a variety of areas, especially those prone to large storms or hurricanes. Having a high wind load rating will provide a lasting light no matter what Mother Nature throws at you.

With all the parts of a solar street light proposal, making sure all aspects are covered will make sure you get the most accurate proposal available. Talk to your solar lighting professional and don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

An LED Solar Street Light Provides Better Visibility

Posted by SEPCO

4/30/13 9:30 AM

Solar LED Street LightMost street lights installed currently use low pressure sodium, high pressure sodium or metal halide lamps to light up the streets. Not only do these lamps use a ton more electricity than LEDs, the visibility is much lower due to coloration and intensity of the light. Instead, consider making the switch to LEDs as they will not only significantly reduce your energy bill but also provide a much brighter and cleaner light to improve visibility and safety of travelers.

LEDs consume very little energy as they provide more efficient lighting with less power consumption. These are a perfect solution for areas looking to lower their energy usage or switch to solar powered street lights.

LEDs also come with a range of lighting spectrum depending on the needs of the area. Most LED lights have a bright white light output that is closer to sunlight than most lights produced today. This allows for better visibility in regards to color, shape, etc. while also creating less strain on the eyes.

Other lighting colors can be used depending on the project. For example, turtle friendly lights need to be amber in color as the wave lengths of the light are much longer and do not disorient wildlife. They also need to be dark sky compliant, and with aimed optics technology with LEDs, this can be done with ease.   The inherent design of LEDs can easily adapt to these changes without major conversions.

Solar and LEDs integrate together flawlessly to provide a great solution. LEDs and solar power are perfect companions because the DC current that LEDs run on is the very same type of power that solar energy produces.

In the final analysis, LED solar street lights provides better visibility while also being cost effective, renewable and a green option for all your street lighting needs.

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Topics: LED Lighting, Street Lighting

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