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Should I Install Standalone or Centrally-Powered Solar Street Lights?

Beyond the construction of solar power plants and rooftop solar systems, the deployment of solar street lights has emerged as a key route for reaping the benefits of solar energy.

The use of solar-powered street lights has existed for many decades and many people already have a clear image of what they look like. But what most of you are thinking about are merely standalone solar street lights, yet overlooking another means to ‘solarify’ street lights.

Should I Install Standalone or Centrally-Powered Solar Street Lights?

What Are Standalone Solar Street Lights?

As the name indicates, a standalone solar street light functions as an individual solar power system by itself. Other than the lighting module, it also comprises a solar panel, solar battery, charge controller, wiring, and other accessories.

In general, standable solar street lights can be grouped into three categories:

  • Split-Style Lights: All principal components, including the photovoltaic panel, re-chargeable battery and light fixture, are separated and installed in different parts of the light.
  • All-in-Two Lights: Have the battery and lighting module packed into one structure, resulting in a more compact design than the traditional split-style counterparts.
  • All-in-One Lights: They are the outcomes of the ongoing evolution across numerous pivotal technologies. All components are combined into a housing, yet the capacity and efficiency are not compromised. There are also some innovative forms such as palm tree solar street lights and vertical lights.

What Are Centrally-Powered Solar Street Lights?

By way of metaphor: while standalone solar street lights draw energy from the photovoltaic systems on their own, centrally-powered solar street lights consume energy from a centralized solar power station, somehow resembling the working principle of ‘community solar.’

Hence, the concept of centrally-powered solar street lights denotes utilizing a dedicated solar power generation station to deliver solar energy to power up the street lights. 

That is to say, these lights do not necessarily need to have a photovoltaic system on them (more straightforwardly, they do not have).

When to Use Standalone Solar Street Lights?

Standalone solar street lights are ideally suited for new developments or remote areas where laying down traditional infrastructure is too costly or not feasible. 

This is because the construction of a centralized solar power station necessitates extra labor and materials, including a large venue for the setup, extensive groundwork, cable trench excavation and backfilling, long-distance wiring, and more. Moreover, these additional procedures may meanwhile entail social or ecological issues that take time to resolve.

In contrast, standable solar lights, no matter which product category you go for, are all easy-to-install and versatile options. In most cases, you just need to prepare the bases for the light poles beforehand. Then await the arrival of the components at your site for assembly.

For small and medium street light projects, such as those at parks and commercial or industrial blocks, choosing standalone solar street lights boasts greater investment returns. You can expect the lights to be set up within a short time frame without hassle. They are an ideal way to offset your investment and offer you long-term savings while enjoying the benefits of solar and the delight of energy autonomy.

When to Adopt Centrally-Powered Lights?

Centrally-powered solar street lights would be more advantageous for large projects, particularly in the context of extensive transportation networks, delivering enhanced benefits of scale.

Although through many years of evolution, solar street lights have become a mature solution that can operate independently, there are circumstances in which the key components, like panels and batteries, suffer faults and thus lead to power outages. This will pose challenges for the maintenance of large solar street light projects.

If you plan to upgrade your large street light project, implementing the concept of ‘centrally-powered’ would be more practical. It would offer you a better ROI, since you don’t need to add photovoltaic components to each individual light or arrange a complete replacement for existing street lights, and you don’t need to get caught in trouble involving excavation, backfilling, wiring, and the like. Rather, you primarily focus on the centralized power source and the reliability of its associated energy storage module.

On the other hand, if there is already a solar power plant near the installation site, it is also clever to arrange tailored energy capacity to supply solar power for these street lights through some kind of power purchase agreement.

Referring to the cases discussed above, ‘centrally-powered’ lights could be a suitable and flexible option for large projects and those with an existing solar power source nearby.

Standalone or Centrally-Powered Solar Street Lights?

In a nutshell, there are many means to ‘solarify’ street lights. However, some of them have been overlooked which regretfully hinder the deploying speed of solar for street light projects.

Nonetheless, the financial factor plays a crucial role in the decision between standalone and centrally-powered solar street lights. Project developers should base their consideration on the scale and particulars of the project to weigh up the ROIs for different options. Creative collaborations between different parties not only help to speed up the project but also serve the greater good of many.

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