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Solar-powered LEDs offer parking lot lighting—without compromising light quality

Solar parking lot lightingParking lot lighting can illuminate the night for the safety of employees and customers using them, but emerging trends reveal this sense of security can be accomplished with lower light levels than previously believed.

Conventional HID lights have more light trespass—wasted light—that contributes to light pollution and renders the world in an unappealing beige thanks to their yellow glow. While the human eye is good at adapting from day to night, it’s not good at dealing with both bright and dark areas at the same time; these lights are often so bright, they make it difficult for the eye to make this adjustment. Thanks to ever-advancing technology, LED lighting can offer lower, more uniform illumination with better color quality than HID lights, to the benefit of all users. They benefit the environment, too, by offering better light cutoff—meaning they provide more focused light—that contributes less light pollution.

The Commercial Building Energy Alliance (CBEA) stipulates that main parking lot area specifications in Lighting Zones 2, 3, and 4 maintain a minimum of 0.5, 0.75, and 1.0 fc (foot candles) of illuminance, respectively. Many businesses opt to exceed these illumination levels with HID lights, but a 2011 study found that using LED lighting to meet those standards, rather than surpassing them needlessly, offered significant advantages.

In support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solid-State Lighting Technology Demonstration Program, a Walmart in Leavenworth, Kansas, installed LED lights in a large parking lot to determine if they could meet the CBEA’s standards while remaining competitive with conventional systems. In the past, this Walmart had aimed for 6.0 fc, but the study results showed that management was satisfied with the 1.5 fc the LED system provided—one-quarter of the original request—and that it met the illuminance requirements with more uniformity. Walmart has since committed to use LED parking lot lighting at more of its sites.

Today, the long-term benefits of LEDs can be taken a step further with solar lighting. As businesses acknowledge that lower illuminance levels are acceptable for their facilities, the power requirement for their lighting is reduced, meaning smaller solar LED systems can power the lights. Additionally, there is no need for trenching, wiring, or electrical connections.

Solar-powered LED street lights offer an environmentally friendly, self-contained option at the same initial cost or less of HID lighting. The Sol® EG Series is durable, sleek, and offers a compact, anti-theft design, while the Top of Pole Series offers design versatility and customization. Both are dimmable to help conserve energy when facility usage is low, while allowing for more efficient energy consumption during peak hours, reducing the cost of the system. Solar LEDs can hit the illumination targets specified in the CBEA in most locations and provide better light uniformity at lower illuminance levels, improving safety and security while also helping keep the night sky darker.