Key Developments in Solar Lighting

Key Developments in Solar Lighting

Given the increasing benefits and decreasing costs of solar lights, more facilities and organizations are using them. Governments find that solar lighting can meet multiple objectives simultaneously.

Solar LED lighting is often the most cost-effective way to light parks, roads, and other remote areas, and it helps to meet sustainability objectives as well. The key trends we expect over the next 12 to 18 months will continue to drive penetration for solar LED lighting in Latin America and the Caribbean.

1. Higher Return on Investment (ROI)

Perhaps the most promising trend in solar lighting is higher return on investment. Latin America's vast spaces and rugged terrain sometimes make it expensive or even impractical to connect outdoor lighting to an electrical grid. Fortunately, these extensive infrastructure investments are unnecessary with solar-powered lights. Solar power has always been promising in areas with abundant sunshine. However, parts of Latin America also face protracted wet seasons, which previously created significant issues. Today, solar-powered lights are more practical in these locations due to a combination of longer run times, new automation options, and more adjustable solar lighting setups.

2. Longer Run Times

More efficient LED lights, better solar panels, and battery technology all contribute to longer run times. Longer run times do far more than just reduce costs. They also expand potential applications. In remote areas, where conventional grid sources are either expensive or not available, increased run times are crucial. Even high-power lights can now last all night. Furthermore, lower-power options can operate for several days on one charge. That is important in areas with less sunlight during certain seasons.

3. Expanded Automation Options

New automation options are also making solar lighting more practical for many applications in Latin America. Programmed timers and light sensors help to conserve artificial lighting for times when it is needed. However, motion sensors are even more effective for applications where people are only occasionally present at night. For instance, suppose people only walk in an area 10% of the time during the night. In that case, using motion sensors can reduce electricity consumption by 90%, and solar lights can last ten times as long. Finally, automated solar lights can also switch to low-power modes when battery power runs low.

4. More Adjustable Solar Panels and Lights

Although adjusting the angles of solar lights seems simple, it often has significant benefits. Turning solar panels to the optimal angle can substantially boost energy generation and helps rainwater to clean the panels. The lights themselves are usually pointed in an unrelated direction. Therefore, it is worthwhile to consider panels and lights that are independently adjustable.

5. Higher Light Output

The days when solar lighting meant low levels of light and other compromises are long gone. We can thank the continued increases in LED light power and efficiency. A 9,000-lumen floodlight can now run on just 50 watts, which is less than a standard light bulb used only a few decades ago.

6. Less Noticeable Solar Panels

Traditional solar panels can lend a futuristic air to many buildings, but their appearance made them inappropriate for some locations until recently. Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) can be part of building architecture as roofs, canopies, and walls. Furthermore, BIPV also improves energy efficiency and reduces solar panel installation costs.

If BIPV does not sufficiently reduce the visibility of solar panels for a particular application, perhaps solar skin technology is the answer. Solar skins allow their users to display customized images over the solar panels. Selective light filtration allows sunlight to pass through the image with minimal loss of efficiency. In parks or historic sites, these images can be chosen to blend in with the surroundings. Conversely, solar skins may also display ads for businesses or flags for government offices to attract more attention.