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Solar: Accom’s new super power

Good outdoor lighting can be the difference between a glorious evening of floodlit tennis or an inglorious stumble into the pool.

Having witnessed both on my travels (the latter was my favourite comedy moment ever), it’s fair to say that lighting plays a major part in enhancing evening activities across the nation’s accom. 

Outdoor lighting must be bright enough to ensure guest safety, enhance the comfort of alfresco diners and illuminate sporting arenas. But it can’t spill obtrusively, be blindingly glaring or create pools of brightness which make spaces beyond them seem dark and scary.

Creating a comfortable ambience which ensures outdoor spaces are still well enough lit to be functional is a balancing act, and one that many properties fail to pull off as managers look to economise on power bills.

Which is why solar is firmly in the spotlight as a solution to accom’s exterior lighting challenges.

Economic benefits

Since there is no need for trenching, wiring between lights or metering, the cost savings on solar installation versus grid-based systems can be huge.

Fitting grid-tied exterior lighting can mean tearing up existing paving and driveways or damaging natural surrounds, and the cost of extending wiring from the nearest connection can be prohibitive.

Solar lighting can be installed anywhere from parking lots and parks to locations far removed from grid infrastructure.

As well as being cheap to install, solar lighting allows accom managers keep their utility bills to a minimum. And since each solar light is powered by itself and not connected to the rest of the lights, there is no risk of the kind of power failures which dog a grid system during weather events.

The solar lighting components are modular and designed for installation within a few hours. They require little to no scheduled maintenance, with most components – such as the photovoltaic panels – guaranteed maintenance-free for their lifetime.

Green benefits

Obviously, the most important thing about solar energy is that it’s a truly renewable energy source. As long as we have the sun, estimated to be around for at least the next five billion years, solar lights will continue to shine.

The environmental benefits can help promote a building owner’s green credentials and serve as a selling point for attracting guests. Solar lighting can also help with Green Star certification.

Charge and running time

Latest solar lighting systems come with sophisticated battery technology which allows them to continue to shine for up to five days without rays. And they are built with receptors that can receive light, store it and convert it to energy regardless of how far away that light is. The receptors are so sensitive that they can capture any ray of light detected by them, no matter how small.

The growth in the electric car market has driven battery development and resulted in more compact, highly efficient, longer-lasting rechargeable batteries. Hand in hand with that development, the cost of photovolcaic panels has plummeted in recent years and LED lighting development has taken giant strides towards greater efficiency.

LEDs Magazine says: “Thanks to advances in solar panel, battery, and LED technologies, commercial solar outdoor lighting is now more reliable than its grid-tied counterparts, and it provides a higher quality of light for a lower cost.”

Surya Bedi, lighting application specialist for EnLighten, says it’s important that an appropriately sized solar panel is matched with an appropriately sized battery.

“In our case, we are able to use a small size panel and small battery (Lithium Iron Phosphate- LiFePO4) because we combine smart controls,” he said.

“After understanding the requirements of the lesser occupied night-time areas, we incorporate smart sensors in the light fitting. These sensors are either activated by motion or as per pre-set times and they help reduce the system load by more than 70 percent, as the light only comes to full brightness as per its control setting.

“The rest of the time, it remains in a very dim mode, which is enough for someone to feel safe when looking at the area from a distance.

“This helps us reduce the battery and thereby size of the solar panel significantly and place it all comfortably in the same size as that of a regular streetlight.”

Styles and applications

There are myriad options for solar lighting styles, depending on application.

Some of the most popular for accom are:

  • Solar path lights – small and relatively low-lit compared to electric lights, these can be placed on a stake and are erected along pathways or walkways.
  • Ambient and decorative solar lights – these can be crafted in numerous colours and shapes, and while not overly bright, they create a desired ambience when used together.
  • Solar-powered spotlights – the most brilliant solar lights you can get, their brightness can measure over 35-watt of normal incandescent bulbs. They are best used on driveways and doorsteps.

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