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Solar Lighting for Community Development

In Spain, we are faced with redevelopment of ‘urbanization.’ Our resident’s association would like to propose low level, renewable energy street lighting (solar power) be installed. I understand that the Spanish Government will provide grants for renewable energy solutions…. [Can] you give us some direction with regard to policy, grants and potential lighting solutions? –Catherine P., Spain

Catherine, Solar, and in some cases, small wind, are used for street and area lighting all over the globe. Compact fluorescents (CFLs) and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) have changed the playing field in making solar technologies more viable for lighting.

Companies and projects range from India to Washington, DC. In fact, the Mayor of Ann Arbor, Michigan, announced this June the results of a program to develop specially bundled LED light globes for street lighting.

The reasons for solar street lighting are many — the most important is that it is less expensive than ditching wires and paying monthly utility and maintenance fees. Lower voltage lights such as CFLs and LEDs have less change-outs, which increase safety and reduce labor costs.

Community planners like lower, more directed lighting to keep a community atmosphere and not to ‘wash out’ the night sky. Security planners like solar lighting, because lights stay on when the electric grid breaks down. I am even involved in dedicated solar and wind systems to back up major intersection signal lights for this purpose in some major cities.

One such company, Solar One of Framingham, Massachusetts, installed a solar lighting system in Babson College (Massachusetts). Moneer Azaam, Solar One’s CEO stated, “lighting to ‘see by’ as compared with lighting to ‘look at’ is a major step forward for solar technology.” Appropriate lighting directed toward the ground rather than the sky is really the advantage of “engineered” solar lighting products.

In June 1999, Solar Outdoor Lighting, Inc. (SOL) installed 174 solar lights within Fort Hood, Killeen, Texas, to provide security for parking areas adjacent to troop barracks. When completed, this was the largest solar outdoor lighting installations in the world. There are many great solar lighting companies and urban planners using renewable energy lighting solutions all over the globe. These lighting solutions are cost effective now and really don’t need subsidies other than long-term financing or municipal bonds to experience cash positive applications immediately.

— Scott