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Solar-powered lighting is a great concept for adding outdoor fixtures in new locations. With no need for wired connections to the local electric utility, owners save on trenching and other costs. And, since the fixtures are powered only by batteries charged up by attached solar panels, there are no monthly electric bills, either.

Lighting Powered by the Sun – With a Backup

Chuck Ross
Solar-powered lighting is a great concept for adding outdoor fixtures in new locations. With no need for wired connections to the local electric utility, owners save on trenching and other costs. And, since the fixtures are powered only by batteries charged up by attached solar panels, there are no monthly electric bills, either. But what about existing, grid-connected area lights – does it make sense to add off-grid operating capabilities when they’re replaced? Developers of new hybrid lighting concepts, in which utility supplies serve only as an emergency backup, say such fixtures offer financial and environmental benefits that make them a great replacement option in any area lighting upgrade.

“In our eyes, the largest market for this product is replacing existing 250-watt and under HID or HID equivalent LED fixtures in parking lots,” says David Gershaw, chief innovation officer of Light Efficient Design, which manufactures Solera Solar Lighting, including that company’s Hybrid 365 solar area light. “One of the more exciting opportunities in our mind would be being able to go up to a current LED parking lot fixture that is maybe 5 to 10 years old and nearing end-of-life and replacing it with a solar hybrid fixture that uses significantly less energy.”

These hybrid fixtures do come at a premium, versus standard products powered only by grid-supplied electricity. The added cost makes sense, given the addition of the solar panel and battery, along with added engineering. But the added expense can be offset by dramatically lower energy bills, along with any available efficiency incentives, Gershaw says.

“Payback over grid-power-only fixtures could be as low as a few months in areas of the country that have higher energy costs and larger rebates, or as high as a few years in areas with lower energy costs and no rebates,” he says. “But we believe anyone in the U.S. and Canada can find a customer for these products due to their uniqueness and environmentally conscious image.”
Photo courtesy of Light Efficient Design
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