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Why Solar Powered LED Street Lights Should Become the New Norm

SEPCO 10/18/16 10:00 AM
Why Solar Powered LED Street Lights Should Become the New Norm

All over the US and even most of the developed world, street lights are installed to provide illumination to the travelers that are moving about from one place to another. Typically, these street lights use highly inefficient HID lamps that drain the grid of electricity and cost untold millions of dollars per year to power and maintain. Obviously, street lights are needed for the safety of these travelers, but instead of wasting the money on old-style HID lamps, a switch to energy-efficient LED lights is becoming more of a standard. Why not also look at the implementation of solar with these new efficient lights and reduce our waste even further!


Quick Overview of LEDs:

LED street lights provide better lighting in numerous ways: 

  1. LEDs consume much less energy because LEDs produce more Lumens per Watt than HID lights. LEDs provide around 100+ Lumens per Watt and put the light on the ground instead of wasting light pushing it in all directions.
  2. With specialized optics, LEDs are able to direct the light precisely where it is needed. This means the light can be spread out where it is required using distribution patterns or NEMA ratings.
  3. LEDs provide a whiter light that promotes better visual acuity; i.e. things are more clear and easier to see. This provides less eye strain when trying to decipher between objects at night.
  4. LED's last a very long time, upwards of 15-20 years before needing to be replaced. Some LEDs have a longer life span and do not degrade as fast as traditional lamps.
  5. LED fixtures are also dimmable for lower power consumption for times when the streets are not in high use, reducing further the power requirements.
  6. LEDs are an "instant on" and do not require a warm-up time or "restrike" waiting time.


New Options with LEDs

Many years ago, lighting was very inefficient. A lot of energy was required to make even the tiniest bit of light, and the more light that was required, the more energy and heat was produced. The low lumen output of old-style lamps required such high wattages to be used, wasting power and having power losses that had to be taken into consideration.


The introduction of LEDs provided a more efficient way to produce light. The Lumen per Watt efficiencies have increased greatly. Now, most fixtures can produce over 100 LpW and require a much smaller amount of electricity, and produce a lot less heat as waste. The color is also better with these new style lights that there is an increase in visibility which increases safety and security.


Fixture Changes with LEDs

Fixture options have changed since the adoption of LEDs has grown exponentially. Instead of only a few styles of fixtures being available, especially for roadway lighting, we now have a large variety of fixture styles. Now, decorative fixtures are able to be used for large-scale projects such as street lighting.


Decorative fixtures are able to have the same light output as traditional Cobrahead style fixtures and even offer the same optics as a traditional fixture. These decorative LED fixtures being available to produce the same light output as standard commercial fixtures fit in well with architectural surroundings and are perfect for downtown district areas, parks, and pathways, and residential areas. 


The LEDs can have multiple distribution patterns for different lighting needs such as round for larger areas to thin and wide for two-lane roadways. Most LED fixtures are also dark sky compliant keeping from additional light pollution falling on surrounding areas. This is great since refractors and reflectors are used with old-style lamps, producing some of the worst light pollution and additional wasted energy.


Going Solar with Lighting

Since LED fixtures use less power, the solar that is needed to power the fixtures is less than with older types of lighting. And since the fixtures are brighter with a larger lighting pattern, the number of fixtures required for an application is less. This lowers the cost of the overall project and provides an even faster payback period for going solar.


Adding solar to the mix for a solar-powered LED street light, you have even better efficiency with no grid power being used. LEDs use one-fifth the power of incandescent lighting, a third of HID or metal halide lamps, and half of the fluorescent lamps.


Benefits of Grid-Free Solar Lighting

LEDs run directly off the DC power provided by the solar power system, making them operate more efficiently without standard AC power losses. Moreover, solar-powered street lights operate completely independent of the electric grid, which lowers the carbon footprint and promotes a more sustainable future.


Large Scale Changes 

Changing a single standard street light to an efficient solar-powered LED street lighting system helps, but imagine this on a larger scale. What does it cost to power all those lights on the roads? Not just financially but in the carbon footprint that these lights have. Now remove all these lights from the grid and power them by solar, and it turns to zero. That's a huge impact on our future!


While local and intermediate streets are now capable of being illuminated with solar streetlight fixtures, the light levels needed on major highways are still beyond the reach of solar-powered street lights for most areas. Nonetheless, rapidly advancing LED technology will one day make it possible to change every street light in America over to energy-efficient solar-powered LED street light. The likes of which will save untold millions in energy costs and promote a sustainable future by completely removing all the lighting needed from the grid.


What other ways can we impact our carbon footprint and provide better lighting?