Going solar

Turning your product into solar lighting. Key factors for success

Solar panels for lighting from Metsolar

When solar market has grown by 32 percent last year it was a clear sign for different industries that solar implementation into a product might be a good thing. One of those industries where solar is adopted rapidly is lighting. Reasons are simple – green solar energy is considered to be energy of the future, it saves costs, solar power is easy to install and is safer than traditionally powered lighting and ultimately – design-fit integration makes it one of the kind solution. Having this in mind, it is not a surprise that overall solar lighting market revenue is projected to be 6.5 times more, or reaching 22.3bn$, by 2025. So if you’re thinking how to implement solar to your lighting product, we’ve got you covered.

Turning your product into solar lighting is not a difficult task, however, it requires some budget and good preparation. One of the first decisions to make is to choose which part of a product – lighting pole or luminaire – will be solarised and another decision is where rechargeable battery will be placed in a lighting product.

Solar integration options: solar module placement

In terms of module placement, there are several ways where it can be located and integrated.

Flat solar module integration

It is one of the most common solution for solar street lighting. Solar panel is placed on top of a luminaire to get the most out of the sun and generate energy for lighting. It is by far the most economic, however, simplest design-wise way to make your lighting solar, where in most cases standard solar modules are used for such integration. So most likely you will not surprise anyone, as this solution is already widely used. One more point to keep in mind is that this solution is not recommended for windy and sandy environment. Sand may contaminate the surface of such modules, thus they become ineffective until they get cleaned. Not to mention that strong wind may constantly test the strength of module’s construction and ultimately brake it.

Seamless vertical solar module integration

If flat is a too regular type of solution for you, seamless vertical integration might be the one to choose. It is recognized as an exceptional way to integrate solar modules into lighting systems. Using this method, solar modules are not fixed on top of an illuminator, but are placed around the lighting pole, thus it is less visible and this feature is widely valued by designers, architects and demanded from users. If flat is not designed to be used in windy places, for seamless vertical it is even better, as the shape of a lighting product is aerodynamic. More so, sand and mud does not stain modules that much and it is easier to clean them as one does not need to climb so high compared to flat.

Seamless vertical is also a good fit for those who are thinking about off-grid type of solar lighting product. Firstly, because all of pole’s surface can be efficiently used – be covered with solar panels. Secondly, vertically placed modules receive energy more evenly and therefore efficiently from the sun during all four, even darkest, seasons. Seamless vertical is able to generate relatively more amount of energy and so it is effective in keeping off-grid street lighting poles with powerful illuminators up and running (70-250 Watts). So, this solutions is more desired and implemented in installation regions where weather conditions are harsher.

Easy fit solar panel integration

Another type of solution is Easy fit module integration. It is comparatively similar (design-wise) to the previous one, however, is more practical as solar modules can be implemented on a pole easily and rapidly by using special fixators. What does it mean? Less development is required. It is a great solution for new solar street or urban lighting projects as well as for refurbishment projects when upgrading current lighting systems.

Seamless horizontal panel integration

Seamless horizontal integration is an interesting solution for those who want to develop or upgrade only a luminaire. This solution is attractive due to seamless design and easy installation. However, this option is not fully suitable to work as standalone product due to its tiny surface for module placement. Although it is possible to reach power autonomy with this solution, it would require using effective LED and smart lighting systems which involve dimming, timing and motion sensor programmes. These solutions would regulate lighting intensity according to changing circumstances. (See below).

Attached module integration

The last solution – attached module integration – is very similar to seamless horizontal module integration option. The main difference between these two is that the module can be adjusted according to the sun to get the most energy out of it.

To sum up, which module integration solution is right for your lighting product? The answer is based on a combination of region, solar intensity, installation environment and also a type of project – whether it is street, urban, park, economic or luxury and if it is a new lighting system or old one that requires an upgrade. “Metsolar”experts will help you to make the right decision.

Solar integration options: How to choose the right battery?

To choose right placement for rechargeable batteries may be even more important than deciding location for solar module. It is one of the most expensive and by far the most significant element to have solar system working properly.

In the beginning, we have to take into account weather conditions. Unfavourable environment may affect battery lifespan irreversibly, thus in general, one should be aware not to put it where temperature is +25C and more. On the other hand, lower temperatures may influence rechargeable battery’s capacity. It is not recommended to use batteries where temperature reaches -5C degrees or lower.

Next step is to decide the type of battery and its placement in the product. Let’s take a look at some available and commonly used battery options.

Deep cycle lead acid batteries

One solution would be to choose deep cycle lead acid battery and place it underground. It is an economy solution, however that’s about it when we talk about positive sides of such batteries. If considering such batteries – we have to take in mind that there are few disadvantages – firstly, such batteries are extremely heavy and big. Also, they have low number of cycles, therefore lifespan is pretty short.

LiFePo4 type batteries

The best option, where temperature differentiates between -25 and +60 degrees Celsius – would be to choose LiFePo4 type batteries. They are valued for their ability to keep capacity unchanged in such weather conditions, also have relatively low weight. It is characterized to have more than 2000 unload cycles (which is more than 5 years lifespan) and safe to exploit. However, such an option may be in discordance with one’s economic abilities, as choosing such batteries for installation requires solid financial input. More so, additional electronic equipment is needed. So before making a decision on going with these batteries for lighting products, you should be aware that it is extremely important not to fully discharge such batteries and to note that unfortunately, there are no European producers of LiFePo4 batteries.

Li-ion or Li-poly types of batteries

Where weight and power density is important, Li-ion or Li-poly battery types are recommended. They are twice as light as LiFePo4 batteries and have the same capacity. However, some downsides have to be taken in mind: as in most of rechargeable batteries, this type of battery capacity is also very sensitive to temperature, so charging is possible between +5C and +40C only. It may even light up from too high temperature, mechanical breach or overload.

Battery placement options

Taking installation region of a solar lighting, environmental conditions and several other factors into account these are the most common placement options for batteries:

  1. Rechargeable battery is placed inside the pole;
  2. Battery is placed underground;
  3. Battery is placed inside a luminaire.

Considering all this, which one would be suitable for you? It depends on daily average energy consumption, the necessary level of systems autonomy and what are conditions for storage, especially temperature. One should also think about which battery solution is preferable – more expensive battery with longer lifespan or cheaper one, but taking maintenance and battery replacement into account may end up costing even more. If you are having trouble in deciding, which would suit your product best – get in touch with Metsolar team for assistance in solar product development.

Can solar lighting be stable? Absolutely!

One of the challenges lighting industry has when speaking about solar products – is dependency of the sun’s light. We need light mostly when it’s completely dark. Thus, as a solution, a system was invented, called charge controllers, which allows managing available power to its highest efficiency. It provides the control of lighting schedule from dusk to down – to set program to work on custom hours or activate motion sensors with dimming programme. For example, when there is motion, lighting pole lights up to 100 percent and later goes down to 50 or even 20 percent. Such charge controllers ensure most effective power consumption and it is important as we want lighting systems do their job continually and to increase power autonomy of a lighting product.

Seeking smooth solar project flow? Choose the right partners

Successful solar lighting product development firstly depends on experienced and trusted partners. Being more than 20 years in this market and having long experience in solar lighting, “Metsolar” focuses on providing outstanding quality while meeting highly customised demands for solar solutions.

With an in-house laboratory, where various tests are taken, we ensure quality according to IEC 61215-1 and IEC6173-2 certificates. EU solar manufacturing company from Lithuania can arrange full solar system for integration that involves personalised module with cut in any shape and size solar cells, control systems with different lighting programmes, rechargeable batteries, and other electrical parts for standalone or semi off-grid product integration.

This makes “Metsolar” a competent partner for solar projects. The company is able to provide solar elements, like custom solar modules, and thus work as a manufacturer as well as to bring up necessary solutions when development is considered. Currently “Metsolar” takes part in several international projects where solar innovations are developed and later will be presented for the market.

All things considered, let’s take a look at some numbers to put things into perspective. 19%– this is how much solar street lighting market is expected to grow by 2020. 22.3 billion dollars – the estimated value of global solar street lighting market by 2025. Knowing this, why not start turning your lighting systems into solar right away?

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