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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Difference between a Solar Street Light vs. Traditional Street Light

Posted by SEPCO

7/6/15 10:00 AM

Solar Street Light vs. Traditional Street Light

More solar street lights are being installed worldwide and are slowly taking over as the way to illuminate the streets at night, but what are their differences? Why are solar street light systems being used now instead of bringing in the electric and using a traditional street light? Here are a few differences and reasons these new systems are becoming so popular.

There are two primary types of solar street light systems: off-grid and grid-tied. Off grid solar lights use no power from the grid and produce their own self-sustaining power on each pole, allowing for a zero electric bill for the life span of the system. Grid tied solar light systems feed power from the solar panels to the grid during the day, then use the grid power at night. These systems are typically sized for NET Zero system design, meaning they produce enough power during the day to offset the electrical usage of the lights at night. Both system designs for solar street lights take into consideration multiple facets of a project; available sun, required lighting levels, spacing, wattage of fixture, and backup power (off grid only).

For years, traditional street lights do not take into consideration any of these requirements. Typically a 250-400 Watt metal halide lamp is used inside a traditional Cobrahead fixture. Spacing, light levels and even power consumption are not taken into consideration. As we advance in our technology and awareness of climate change and power conservation, things are starting to shift. Now, with new pole installations, even traditional street lights are starting to take into consideration more of what the solar lighting industry has been for decades.

Traditional old style street lights are slowly being switched out for newer LED fixtures, which require much less maintenance and provide better efficiency of used power. Much lower wattages are now being able to easily replace the old style fixtures. Also, with new LED technology, optics are able to be used to provide task specific lighting on the ground instead of old style refractors that just blast the light in all directions.

What does all this mean in comparison? If you are dealing with grid-tied electrical lights, the most feasible solution to offset or lower your power consumption is to switch to LED fixtures and to even install solar panels to feed the grid during the day. If you are dealing with a new project or an area where grid power doesn’t already exist and / or is difficult to bring in, off grid solar lighting systems is the way to go.

Different types of fixtures have been traditionally used; however, with LEDs becoming more wide spread in various fixtures, the allowance of more decorative style fixtures are now available with solar lighting applications. The LEDs are typically powered between 20 and 50 Watts and put out the same light levels as traditional high powered fixtures. The LEDs produce better light levels and allow for better visibility than before, while the long life extends the maintenance requirements.

In the end, knowing what your requirements are, understanding the cost differences between going solar, NET Zero or installing traditional electrical lights will help determine what the best course of action is. Using LED fixtures in all new installations will ensure that the lowest power consumption is being used while the best light levels are being achieved. It is amazing how far the technology has advanced over the last couple of decades, I can’t wait to see where it is in the next 10 to 20 years.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting

Why Uniformity Is Important For Solar Street Lights

Posted by SEPCO

6/1/15 10:00 AM

Martin County Airport Night Solar Street Lights

Ever drive down a road and there is a whole stretch of lights, but all you see are small circles of light on the ground every hundred feet or so and nothing in between? This doesn’t really help with visibility. However, when you go down a road that has uniform lighting, with no dark areas between the lights, visibility is increased tenfold. Uniformity provides better visual assistance and does not put as much strain on the eyes. When designing a solar street light project, uniformity still needs to be taken into consideration.

IES standards are different between roadways. Large freeways and highways have much different light level requirements than urban roads. Even different cities and municipalities have their own set of standards that go above what IES standards are. Gathering this information and completing a lighting layout to match the standards will be the first step in making sure that the new solar street lights are uniform and meet minimum standards.

Most companies can provide you with the lighting layouts if requested. This is performed by an engineer within the company to ensure that the spacing, wattage, and light level requirements are all within the constraints of the system. If dimming will be used, a new rendering showing what the light levels will be when the fixtures are dimmed should also be shown. This will allow for a better understanding of what to expect when the fixtures are reduced.

Martin County Airport Day Solar Street Lights

There are also many fixture options when looking at solar street lights. We are no longer stuck with standard Cobrahead style lights, allowing for decorative and more modern options for different architectural needs. The implementation of LEDs allows for uniform lighting levels between various fixture sets. A bell style fixture which used to only produce a round area of light directly below the fixture can now provide different distribution patterns and allow for lighting of roadways with uniformity.

LED lights also provide much better lighting with much less light loss from wasted light. Older style fixtures such as metal halide and high pressure sodium had a lot of wasted light. The lumens of the lamp get thrown in all directions and the fixtures were designed to push the light out everywhere with no real task lighting.  LEDs provide task specific lighting and are pushing the light in only in the area that requires lighting. This additional efficiency allows for the use of much less power, fewer lumens, and better overall lighting and uniformity.

The solar allows for additional features such as easy installation, lighting where no power is currently available or difficult to bring in, and efficient use of LED technology since the LEDs themselves operate on DC, not on AC, and provide more efficiency of the fixture. The technologies now work hand in hand to provide the required uniformity with the use of solar for a complete solar street lights application.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Versatility and Cost Savings through Commercial Solar Lighting Systems

Posted by SEPCO

2/9/15 10:00 AM

It is estimated that lighting alone accounts for 12% of the total U.S. electrical consumption every year, using upwards of 461 billion kWh of electricity. This is a heavy cost to businesses, cities and municipalities. Solar lighting can provide both a financial relief as well as a green alternative to traditional lighting. They are self-contained and grid free, and with LED technology, requiring almost no maintenance throughout their lifespan. These lower installation costs compared with utility powered lighting and continue huge savings in the short and long run for most installations.

SEPCO provides versatile solar lighting systems that can easily adapt to most lighting requirements. From large parking lots, roadways, security perimeters and such, all the way down to small sign, flag and bus stop / shelter lighting systems, each project is specified to meet the needs of the application. With over 30 years in the lighting industry, SEPCO solar lighting systems have provided illumination to thousands of projects all over the world.

Martin County Airport Street Lighting

Locally, we have installed a number of projects, Airport Road in Stuart, FL being one. The Martin County Project Manager Paul Bangs chose SEPCO solar lighting systems “to do something innovative” along this stretch of roadway leading into the local airport. The solar lighting systems will save the county money both in the short and long-term as there is no need to run permanent power and the lights are easy to assemble and install. These systems use efficient LED fixtures that provide even lighting along the roadway and are dark sky compliant so no light is wasted.

If a roadway is in a landmark area, more decorative and architecturally designed fixtures may be required. SEPCO’s partnership with Hubbell Lighting allows us to easily adapt almost any style fixture to our solar power systems. This allows us to provide large decorative fixtures for roadway applications without sacrificing lighting levels.

Bradenton Beach Turtle Friendly Street Lighting

The City of Bradenton Beach required just that. The city was looking to use renewable energy to lower the city’s electric bill and become more environmentally friendly. This coastal city has streets of beautiful architecture, homes and shops, and required something a little more than a standard street light system. Using the Urban fixture, we were able to provide a solar lighting system that matched the look of the area, and by powder coating the entire system, blended the solar lighting systems in well with the surrounding buildings and landscape. 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.

MCAS BEQ Retrofit Pathway Lighting

Mandates that have been set forth by the US Federal Government have required federal facilities to reduce energy and improve energy security by installing renewable energy that operates independent of the electrical grid. The US Marine Corps Bachelor Enlisted Quarters complied with this by retrofitting their current lighting systems with solar power and replacing the fixtures with LEDs to increase visibility. Their parking lots and walkways have all been fitted with solar powered LED systems replacing the old High Pressure Sodium lamps with LED fixtures, even matching the style of the old fixtures along the walkways with Beacon’s Slide fixture.

US Military MH Parking Lot Lighting

LED lights are not the only style fixtures that can be adapted. A secure US Military facility required Metal Halide fixtures to be used for their roadway and parking lot area application. We were able to adapt a standard shoebox fixture with Metal Halide lamps to provide this facility light along their roadways, entrances and parking lot areas. This helped the facility to meet its energy reduction goal and provide security through grid free lighting.

Fort McHenry Flag and Street and Parking Lot Lighting

Fort McHenry has been using our solar powered lighting systems for their entrance and parking lots since 2001; however, in 2009 they installed a solar lighting system to light the Star Spangled Banner flag, replacing the 400 Watt metal halide flood lights that were bulky, compromising the aesthetics of the site, and consumed unnecessary energy. They installed a 24 Watt and a 17 Watt flood fixture along with the solar power system on the rooftop of the fort, unseen from tourists. These illuminate the oversized reproduction 15-star 15-stripe original flag for all night. The switch from the metal halide fixtures to LED increased the visibility and allows the flag to show its true colors at night.

SEPCO’s founder Steve Robbins invented the first commercial solar street light over 25 years ago and has been a leader in the industry since SEPCO was founded in 1994. Systems are manufactured to specifications laid out by the project designer with help from our lighting specialists. Each system is custom built and takes into account the geographical location, available sun, light level requirements and weather of each installation location to determine the best system to meet the needs of the customer. SEPCO systems provide a minimum of five nights autonomy, more in the northern areas, and have a life span of 25 to 30 years, providing long term benefit to every solar lighting system installed.

SEPCO also provides custom solar power systems for many different applications. From cameras, Wi-Fi, meters, monitoring systems, the stand alone solar power stations can provide the needed power for almost any application where grid power is not available. These types of systems have been installed all over the world and are primarily used for military and government applications.

In the end, commercial solar lighting systems can provide the necessary security and reduce our energy consumption while maintaining the architectural integrity of the project. With a wide range of choices and custom built designs, SEPCO can easily adapt to the project requirements without sacrificing the lighting level requirements of the area..

***Above is the article feature in November in the Electrical Products and Solutions magazine.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Ways to Save Money with Commercial Street Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

11/18/14 9:30 AM

Dania-Beach-4Commercial street lighting provides light along streets for driver safety, but the costs of installing, maintaining and monthly electrical bills can add up. There are steps you can take to reduce the costs and save money in the long run. Here are a few ideas, and feel free to share yours below in the comments.


Illuminate uniformly

Illuminating the streets uniformly provide the best lighting levels for security purposes. Spotty lighting does not allow for the safety that is needed on roadways and is basically wasting light and power. Provide even illumination and eliminate dark areas makes sure you are using every bit of energy to its maximum potential.


Switch to LED fixtures

LED lights provide better illumination while reducing operation costs and reducing maintenance. LED fixtures are more costly for initial purchase, but compared to HID, LPS and HPS fixtures, they can reduce the power consumption by a third or more and only need replacement once every 10 to 25 years. Best of all, LEDs use most of the power they draw for lighting purposes, unlike older style lamps that only use a small percentage of the power to provide light, the rest produces heat.


Provide maximum lighting when needed

Instead of running a 150 Watt LED fixture at full intensity all night, most streets can reduce the wattage of the fixture by lowering the fixture on the pole and only provide the lighting necessary for the application. There are few applications where high powered lights are required such as on a highway or major intersection. Also, reducing the fixture by utilizing dimming features with LEDs when there is practically no traffic, lowers the power usage for off peak times.


Install commercial solar street light systems

Using commercial solar street light systems in areas where there is no grid power nearby allows for the ability to provide the same safety and security in rural areas. These areas can sometimes be more dangerous than urban areas since there is more wildlife that can wander out in the middle of the road and without proper lighting, can cause fatal accidents. Mixing solar power with LED fixtures, maintenance will be minimal and there will be no electrical costs or worries for underground wiring to destroy the roads in these areas.

What other steps do you think would improve the efficiency and help save money when it comes to street lighting?

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Topics: LED Lighting, Street Lighting

Solar Lighting Solutions are Bound to Make an Impact on Your Business

Posted by SEPCO

10/30/14 9:30 AM

Solar lighting solutionsSolar lighting solutions can positively impact a business for a few different reasons. Here are three, but I’m sure there are more. Feel free to add yours below.


Impact your bottom line

Solar lighting solutions will impact your bottom line, especially in the long term. Installing solar in the initial build phase of a business will do the most impact in regards to the bottom line. The solar lights reduce the cost of wiring parking lots and entrance roadways with standard electric. They also allow for the addition of lights on existing areas that do not have access to the electric grid. Replacement of existing electric does not have the initial financial impact since the purchase of the solar lighting systems can be costly; however, when looking at the long term ROI of the solar project, and comparing that to electrical costs that rise year after year, the savings will add up in the long run.


Impact your green initiative

Is your business looking to be greener and have less of an impact on the environment? Solar lighting solutions provide just that. Since the systems are off the grid, they use no power to operate the fixtures and have a zero carbon impact. The systems charge during the day and operate from the solar charged batteries at night. The system is completely self-contained and practically maintenance free with the implementation of LEDs, there is little costs past initial installation. The only thing to worry about is changing of batteries, but these are also recyclable so there is much less impact there.


Impact your image with your customers

Image is always top on the list of any business; you always want to attract customers to your place. With the climate change awareness that is happening today, people prefer to use greener companies and local businesses over other types of companies. Showcasing the green initiative to your customers by using solar lighting, along with using solar to help offset your actual building electrical usage, will impact you image positively to your customers. It shows how you are looking out for our future and doing your part to lessen your impact on the earth.

What other impacts on a business would solar have? Let me know in the comments below.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Solar LED Lights Provide Security and Reduce Energy Consumption

Posted by SEPCO

10/2/14 9:30 AM

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

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

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

High Pressure Sodium Lights

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

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

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Street Lighting

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, Street Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

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.


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


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


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


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.


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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