Maximize Efficiency in Commercial Buildings
Can Solar Area Lighting Work for You?
The worst thing about ex- panding a parking lot isn’t pouring the extra cement – it’s digging up the cement you already have to wire more light poles out there.
You can’t skip the illumination – doing
so is an obvious safety hazard – but you
may not need to trench underground for
your wiring. Solar-powered outdoor area
lighting is making slow inroads in the
market. Is it right for your building?
Pros and Cons
The key appeal of outdoor solar
lighting is its self-contained nature.
Systems typically don’t incorporate
electrical wiring, eliminating the
need for trenching in the middle of
existing parking lots and other finished
spaces. This aspect appealed to ATTC
Manufacturing, which added pole-mounted solar lighting to the parking
lot in front of its Tell City, IN plant to
compensate for growth that more than
doubled the size of the building. Plant
managers also worked with the Indiana
DOT to add the same models to a state
access road leading to the building.
“They were expanding the parking
lot and would have to trench wire
underground to put up standard lights,”
explains Shawn Tefft, solar lighting
specialist for SEPCO and project
manager on ATTC’s solar area lighting
installation. “They also wanted to put a
green foot forward for clients.”
Some models have a simple solar
panel at the top of the pole, while
others resemble regular poles wrapped
in solar film, adds Scott Tapia, sales
manager for southern California at ABM,
a maintenance and facility services
“We’ve used solar area lighting
for applications like mailboxes for
homeowner associations or kiosks with
motion sensors,” says Tapia. Other
buyers include military bases and parks.
“They tend to appeal to customers who
want to light up parks or roads that are
too far away to wire.”
Shop Smart for Solar
The solar component adds a cost
premium to the lights, but the lack
of wiring and the ability to leave the
existing parking lot untouched saves
on installation costs, helping keep solar
lights competitively priced in many
areas, Tefft says. To make the most of
your purchase, also take into account
these two factors.
Existing lighting: Adding new poles
to your existing outdoor infrastructure
means you’ll need to match their
brightness and distribution as closely as
you can. This can be a potential hurdle
to implementation, explains Tapia, who
also recommends setting aside questions
about trenching and PV panels at first
and focusing on the details.
“Look beyond the solar aspect and
learn about the driver in there,” Tapia
says. “Who’s manufacturing the LED
chips? What distribution does this
fixture have? What will the light level be?
Those are key factors in making a smart
by solar or
and typical weather patterns when
specifying just how much storage you’ll
Vendors may also refer to this as
autonomy – in other words, how long
your lighting can run without being
recharged by sunlight.
“As a rule of thumb, the further north
of the Mason-Dixon Line the building is
located, the more days of autonomy you
need,” explains Tefft. “Five days is the
minimum – usually that will be enough
south of the line, but even in some
southern states there are lower sun hours
and a lot of overcast days in the winter.”
Janelle Penny janelle.penny@buildings.
com is senior editor of BUILDINGS.
SOLAR AREA LIGHTING helped
ATTC Manufacturing light its
expanded parking lot after its