Solar Street Lights: Coming Soon To A Street Near You
Solar street lights have everything you could want in an outdoor light.
Before we get to that, however, we should establish why we need street lights in the first place.
If you haven't already guessed, streetlights are supposed to keep us safe.
Safe from what?
Well how about getting run over by a car? Or tripping over a curb? Or getting mugged and having your iPod stolen?
According to the United States Bureau of Obvious Statistics, way more accidents happen on pitch black streets than on streets that are well lit.
In fact, this was why the Greeks and Romans started lighting up their streets with oil lamps to begin with (that's right, we can thank the Greeks and Romans for yet another facet of our civilization).
According to Wikipedia, the Romans even had a specific type of slave they referred to as a laternarius, and this slave's sole responsibility was lighting oil lamps.
"Lamp lighters" were still required when gas lamps were lighting up European streets in the 19th century. Lighting with gas was a lot cheaper than lighting with oil, however, and this helped it to take over as the fuel of choice for street lamps.
Eventually gas lamps were equipped with a device that allowed them to "light themselves" and the lamp lighter went the way of the dodo. This advancement didn't save the gaslight itself, however, as electricity became more affordable and 'electric light' became the wave of the future.
This little history of street lights was designed to illustrate the fact that street lighting has been steadily evolving for thousands of years, and each new advancement has provided benefits over the previous technology.
Since you're on a website called Solar Power Beginner, it probably won't surprise you to hear our prediction for the future of street lighting: Solar street lights!
Solar powered street lights are similar to other solar lights in that they consist of:
A solar panel to collect solar energy during the day
A battery to store the solar energy until nighttime
A sensor to turn the light on when it gets dark
A light source to illuminate the selected area
These four components are the same ones that you would find in any kind of solar yard light.
The bonus with this simple solar lighting structure is that there's not much that can go wrong (as long as the components are well-made, of course).
When it comes to a solar street light, you'll have three main kinds to choose from:
Low Pressure Sodium (LPS)
This is a more efficient variation of the high pressure sodium lights that are currently the dominant lighting method on roadways.
Light Emitting Diode (LED)
Efficient and long-lasting, LED lighting is common in traffic signals and is becoming more common as a street lighting option.
These lights are efficient, they have a "high color rendering index" (this means that the color of an object appears as it would under natural lighting), and they are incredibly long-lasting. The main drawback to these bulbs is that they are negatively affected by heat.
Now that we know what kind of solar lighting is available, let's take a look at why you would want to choose solar power for your street lighting needs.
Let's start with cost. If there are no power lines nearby and solar power allows you to avoid an expensive line extension, it could be a cost-effective decision from day 1.
Even if there are power lines available, you might find that solar is still the most attractive economic choice. Although solar lights are typically more expensive up front, they can result in big savings over the long term.
Lockheed Martin needed to replace the streetlights at their Orlando facility so they performed a cost comparison between solar and AC powered fixtures. When new wiring and electricity costs were factored into the equation, the cost of the solar lights over twenty years was $342, 000 and the cost of traditional streetlights was $563, 000. This meant that solar street lights provided a savings of $221, 000!
Of course, there are also environmental reasons to go with solar powered street lighting.
Smart grid solar street lighting is perfect if you want to stay connected to the electrical grid while also making an environmentally friendly lighting choice. These lights are a kind of hybrid option that use power from the grid but also feature a solar panel that captures enough energy from the sun to offset the power the light uses at night.
If you're thinking of going solar with your street lights there is even a way you can test out the lighting before you buy it. Dealers like Global Green Energy offer a 'mobile solar lighting demonstration' which extends the light up to 26 feet so you can judge the effectiveness of the lighting in real world conditions.
Environmentally-friendly, cost-effective, and risk-free. Solar street lighting might just be a common sight in the near future.