Technological Advances has Meant that Solar-Powered Lights are Now a Viable Alternative for Use in Parking Lots and Other Outdoor Areas
By Matt Ellenberger, Sol Inc.
Since the invention of the first solar cell more than 100 years ago, solar lighting technology has moved from a niche position to mainstream acceptance in commercial outdoor lighting applications.
In the past, solar lighting was used for projects requiring lower light levels or in remote locations where grid power was non-existent or unreliable, but it is now a viable option for economic reasons, as well as for the message it communicates about commitment to sustainability.
Solar outdoor commercial lighting has benefited from the synergies in technological innovation in three key areas:
-Reduced cost of solar panels – In recent years, the cost of photovoltaic panels has dropped precipitously – 60 percent since early 2011, according to the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)
-Improved battery technology — The growth in the hybrid and electric car markets has improved battery technologies; the result is compact, highly efficient, longer-lasting rechargable batteries
-Improved LED efficiency ‑LED (light-emitting diode) lighting is also gaining in efficiency, which translates to more light with less power, or more lumens per watt; this means a reduced cost for the same lighting output
As a result of these trends, solar commercial outdoor lighting is more cost-effective than ever. Indeed, the payback for installing a solar commercial outdoor can be achieved from day one in certain situations, including those in which no electrical infrastructure exists or in which there is a reluctance to disturb the landscape or existing paving. In such cases, the immediate payback is achieved by eliminating the costs of trenching, wiring and other electrical and utility costs associated with the installation of a new grid-tied lighting system. Plus, with solar lighting there is never an electric bill. In addition, solar commercial outdoor lighting offers reduced operations and maintenance costs, better quality light and the ability to perform during brownouts or blackouts.
For many commercial property owners, however, the cost savings of solar commercial outdoor lighting are secondary to the public relations advantages of powering lights with a “green” source of energy. The fact that solar commercial outdoor lighting does not use fossil fuels and creates no CO2 emissions provides a visible statement of a building owner’s commitment to national energy security and to the protection of the environment.
Many commercial property owners employ solar outdoor commercial lighting to satisfy corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals, or to earn points under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. In addition, green lighting helps attract and retain tenants who welcome the cost savings as well as an opportunity to burnish their green credentials.
With solar outdoor lighting, each light becomes a mini-advertisement for sustainability, achieving a level of communication that cannot be achieved with traditional marketing tools because it expresses the commitment to sustainability through actions, not words. A parking lot, street, pathway or sign that is illuminated with solar lighting is a representation of a company’s conscious decision to implement sustainable lighting.
In weighing priorities when it comes to green marketing budgets, commercial property owners and managers may want to think beyond traditional communications avenues to consider allocating a greater portion of their marketing budgets to long-term communications tools such as solar outdoor commercial lighting that communicate the sustainability imperative while also saving on operations and maintenance costs.
The technology trends that have made solar outdoor commercial lighting an economically viable alternative to grid-tied lighting in many applications will continue to accelerate in years to come, making solar increasingly economical even in situations in which grid-tied lighting would now be the most cost-effective choice. We anticipate that the time will soon be upon us when solar outdoor commercial lighting will be the norm, lighting up the night with high quality, clean, renewable power.
Matt Ellenberger, vice president of sales and marketing at Sol Inc., is responsible for the development and introduction of new solar lighting systems for Sol lighting, North America’s leading manufacturer of commercial and industrial grade solar lighting systems. With more than 12 years of lighting industry experience, Ellenberger’s expertise is in finding the right balance among technology, environmental concerns and good design practices. For more information, call 800‐959‐1329, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.solarlighting.com.