This article is sponsored by Signify.
In response to the economic fallout from COVID-19, the European Union has formulated a major recovery plan for the continent with a key focus on adapting to the digital age and investing in cleaner and more resilient technologies for the future. In the U.S., the 2021 American Jobs Plan aims to steer $2 trillion into productivity and long-term growth, including a strong focus on building resilient and climate-friendly infrastructure.
With economic and climate resilience plans taking a more concrete shape across the globe, Signify believes that solutions such as solar lighting pave the way for countries to build back better.
According to Allied Market Research the global market solar energy was $52.5 billion in 2018 and is set to grow to $223.3 billion by 2026, vastly accelerating the scale of renewables. One of the fastest growing solar technology segments is street lighting.
"Solar street lighting technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years and is fully aligned with the goals of EU and U.S clean energy and economic stimulus initiatives. Just 15 streetlights can save enough electricity to power a home for a year," said Harry Verhaar, global head of government and public affairs at Signify. "Being a digital technology, it can be connected to sensors and be controlled remotely, enabling forward-thinking municipalities to leapfrog to solar and reap the benefits of the digital age."
President Joe Biden’s administration already has proposed $621 billion of additional investment in transportation infrastructure, with $20 billion earmarked to improve road safety and $174 billion for electric vehicles. A sizeable chunk of the latter would be spent on grant and incentive programs to build a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations by 2030.
Signify advocates specifically for the wide adoption of solar and solar hybrid powered street lighting which will not only help improve road safety, but also pave the way to lower emissions and eliminate the need for extra power stations to power the street lamps. This is particularly useful in more remote areas where existing infrastructure is minimal. With the strain taken off power stations, excess capacity could be diverted towards supporting charging stations for electric vehicles.
Solar is the ideal technology for serving far-flung communities with intermittent power supply or coverage. For example, in 2020, Signify installed solar streetlights on the Greek island of Leipsoi in areas lacking full electricity coverage including a playground, allowing the community to feel safer.
A total of 28 autonomous Philips SunStay luminaires were used, each combining a solar panel, an LED light, a charge controller and a battery in one housing unit. The lights also contained an infrared motion sensor which detects movement and alters brightness accordingly, increasing energy efficiency and minimizing light pollution.
"As we have many hours of sunshine throughout the year this is a very effective and functional solution for those areas on our island that are not connected to the power grid," said Fotis Mangos, mayor of Leipsoi. "The lights have such an aesthetic design that they seamlessly blend in with our island’s natural landscape."
The electricity grid doesn’t always follow the street layout on the island and the solar installation allowed for an inexpensive, unobtrusive and environmentally friendly way to light roads and pathways without needing to dig trenches for electrical cables.
"Solar lighting is a key part of our commitment to sustainability and to climate action, as we aim to help people move to cleaner technologies," said Signify’s country leader for Greece, Polydefkis Loukopoulos. "The expansion of solar lighting in new areas of Greece strengthens our vision to provide local communities with the security that results from high-quality solar lighting."
With the addition of hybrid technologies, solar lighting is a feasible solution in areas with only seasonal sunshine, allowing countries at higher latitudes to access its benefits. This technology broadens the market for solar power. A version of solar is available beyond sun-soaked countries to around 6.5 billion people in the world.
According to Antonio Espada, head of public segment in Europe for Signify, solar hybrid street lighting is the best of both worlds. It uses sunlight to charge its batteries and on cloudy days seamlessly switches to electricity from the grid. It’s highly energy efficient and increases the use of renewables and balances electricity loads. The battery power can be used during peak hours so fewer power stations are required.
"Solar and solar hybrid power streetlights are particularly well suited to countries and regions where power outages are common. It can help deter crime and contributes to safer, more resilient communities," added Verhaar.
Ultimately, solar lighting is an accessible, efficient and future-proof solution for community development, and one which could hugely benefit global recovery on both sides of the Atlantic.