By combining two environmentally conscious goals — creating energy using solar cells and saving energy using mercury-free LEDs — Sharp Electronics has developed a new generation lighting products. One of which ushers in the first time LEDs have been directly integrated into a solar photovoltaic (PV) module.Tokyo, Japan – August 2, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] Two solar cell lighting products were introduced. The first, what the company calls their Illuminating Solar Panel that integrates long-life, energy-efficient, high-intensity LEDs (light emitting diodes) within thin-film, “see-through” solar cells into a single solar module. The second lighting product is a solar street light that combines more traditional solar cells with a pole incorporating high-intensity LED lights. This unit eliminates the need for underground or overhead wiring work. For the first of the two projects, Sharp has developed a what they call their Crystalline Thin-Film Tandem Cell that merges amorphous silicon and crystalline thin-film silicon cells using original technology. The company said the new cell achieves a conversion efficiency of 7.3%, approximately 1.5 times higher than conventional amorphous silicon cells. The thin-film solar module with integrated LEDs manages power generation, daylight transmission and illumination in a single module. During the daytime, solar cells generate electricity. At the same time, natural light from the sun is allowed to pass through the thin-film “see-through” solar cells. By connecting the module to a small rechargeable batter and control circuitry during the nighttime hours, LEDs embedded in the same panel are used to provide illumination. The service life of the LEDs embedded in the panel is approximately 40,000 hours, significantly longer than incandescent electric bulbs (1,000 hours) and fluorescent lamps (5,000 to 12,000 hours). In addition, they are an environmentally friendly light source that contains no hazardous mercury. In the second of the two new products, a 34 Watt sharp polycrystalline module is combined with the hardware to make a solar-powered street light. High intensity LEDs are embedded within the top of the pole. The slim stainless steel body of the lighting pole houses the necessary battery and control circuitry. The major strength of a solar-powered street light is that is completely eliminates the need for any wiring work, either overhead or buried. The unit is designed to operated autonomously from the electrical grid. The street lights are priced at 500,000 yen (US$4,497). Both products are currently only available to the Japanese market. The crystalline thin-film tandem cell with embedded LEDs will be available in November of this year, while the solar lighting pole will be available in mid-September. Sharp has committed to producing 2000 units of the solar lighting pole while manufacturing the embedded LED modules to meet demand.