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Solar Street Light Poles: Types, Applications & How to Choose

As the demand for solar street lights continues to soar, recognition of their substantial benefits has captivated a wide audience. Yet, one significant component—street light pole—is often overlooked and underappreciated.

This article will take a comprehensive look at solar street light poles: from the types available and the pros and cons of each type to different uses, as well as aspects you must consider when selecting poles for your project.

Solar Street Light Pole
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

What is a solar street light pole? What is it used for?

Solar street light poles are a crucial part of a complete solar street light system. Their essential functionality is to fix other street light components, including the lighting module, solar panel, rechargeable battery storage module and electronic control device. How they fix other parts depends mainly on the types of solar street lights and their specific applications.

Alongside the evolution of modern transportation, solar street light poles will also serve as a platform to integrate other modular systems, such as IoT-based intelligent traffic management, city governance, etc.

Solar street light poles are generally set up and fixed on sturdy reinforced concrete foundations like most street lights.

What are the different types of solar street light poles?

Solar street light poles come in various designs and materials, depending on street light types and particular project applications. Hence, they can be grouped into different categories.

Single-arm street light poles vs. Double-arm poles

The arm is a vital structure of a solar street light extending from the top of the vertically installed pole outward over the road, holding the lighting module to illuminate the area below.

As the name indicates, single-arm poles can only fix one LED module and are installed on one side of either a one-way or two-way road. While double-arm poles can hold two lighting modules, they are erected in the middle of a two-way road and offer symmetrical illumination for two flanks simultaneously.

Split street light poles vs. Unified poles

In prevalent all-in-one solar street lights, the LED lighting, solar panel and battery are integrated into one unified module, which means the arm carries all the parts for the light.

In contrast, the lighting module and solar panel are separated in older generations of street lights, including split solar street lights and all-in-two lights. The solar panel is positioned on top of the pole with a split arm structure or hung on one side of the pole with accessories.

Steel solar street light poles vs. Aluminum poles

Solar street light poles can be made up of various materials. Today, you can hardly see concrete poles used for street lights. The majority of street light poles are made of steel or aluminum.

Steel solar street light poles and aluminum poles differ in many properties, involving stiffness, strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance, maximum height, processing and price. A wide range of parameters, such as installation and climate conditions, project budget and illumination requirements, can impact the choosing of pole type directly and indirectly.

C&I light poles vs. Residential street light poles

Through several decades of development, the applications of solar street lights get much broadened, not merely limited to the transportation industry. Many street lights are tailor-made for commercial and residential uses, as you can see the installations along the streets within factory parks or near garden fences.

The diverse uses of these lights require the support of certain properties of a light pole, thus the particular pole variety.

Functional street light poles vs. Decorative light poles

Beyond the primary function of holding and fixing components on a solar street light, modern street light projects have an increasing demand for the aesthetic property since the transportation system has acted as a window to showcase the image and character of a city for both the citizens and travelers.

As a foundational part of street lights, poles today also bear the role of media. Many street light projects seek customization for light poles to echo the city's visual identity (VI) concerning theme color, patterns or elements. In light of this manner, these decorative solar street light poles create much more value than their costs, contributing to energy transition and green development for the city while helping in a city's publicity.

What to consider when choosing street light poles for your project?

Most buyers will spend the most time on the performance of electronic modules when shopping for solar street lights. That's not wrong. But the light poles could be equally important during your evaluation to ensure a cost-effective, long-lasting application.

Below are the main aspects to consider when choosing the ideal light poles.

Installation environment

Solar street lights can be installed in a vast range of locations, like highways, urban roads, countryside, and even deserts, to name a few. Different locations hold specific environmental parameters regarding temperature, humidity, wind strength, soil composition and others, posing distinct challenges to both the physical and chemical properties of light poles.

Buyers should always take environmental features in mind when evaluating solar street light poles.

For instance, projects located in the tropics would suffer high temperatures and humidity most of the year and sometimes may run into devastating typhoons. Galvanized steel light poles can withstand strong winds while having outstanding corrosion resistance. They would be a good choice for such projects.

Illumination requirements

One critical fact many buyers overlook is that there is a close relationship between the illumination effect of the lights and the configuration of light poles.

The height of the vertical pole, the tilt angle of the arm and the distance between two poles can impact the overall illumination effect for the road area underneath required by the project and how the lighting modules fulfill their functions efficiently.

Project developers or builders should take advantage of modern lighting design software such as DIALux to simulate the actual lighting effect of solar street lights at the site with parameters supplied by manufacturers. In this way, buyers can choose suitable varieties of light poles to satisfy project needs while avoiding resource waste and increasing ROI.

Aesthetics

As mentioned previously, the evolution in the role of lighting fixtures has driven the aesthetic development of solar street lights.

The project team ought to have a clear understanding of the project's positioning. If the project is endowed with dual functions—lighting and publicity, more work should be put into trans-department communications, design and budget planning. 

Budget and maintenance costs

The procurement process of solar street lights should factor into both short- and long-term operations for an informed decision.

Though solar street lights can work off the traditional power grid and autonomously when coupled with sensors and control devices, the overall costs, including upfront investment and operation, can vary greatly; one key yet overlooked cause is the light poles.

Some poles may cost lower, but their maintenance costs may accumulate significantly. The unscientific configuration of light poles also leads to unnecessary investment and extra maintenance costs for other devices on the lights.

Conclusion

There is a vast choice of solar street light poles in the market. However, the difference does not simply reflect on materials.

Many people do not realize that the light poles can influence overall investment and maintenance costs beyond meeting lighting needs. Obtaining an effective combination of lighting modules and light poles can give you a good ROI, especially in the long term.

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