Commercial-grade solar lighting for the great outdoors

When combined with other technologies such as motion sensors, Sol's lighting options can be as cost-effective for new construction as 'traditional' lighting systems.

Commercial-grade outdoor solar lighting company Sol is positioning its new 20/20 technology as a cost-effective, reliable alternative to grid-tied lighting for businesses with parking lots and other outdoor lighting needs.

That is important because the company already is behind about one-third of the outdoor solar lighting market in North America, and it has a credible footprint in markets such as Africa, where its technology is used to light up rural highways.

"There is really nothing more obvious to a consumer than a solar-power parking lot," said Paul Wickberg, president and CEO of the Palm City, Fla.-based company, who joined Sol earlier this year.

Considered in its entirety, Sol's technology offers a green lighting solution that is now priced at parity with traditional lighting options, Wickberg said. The company's focus is on banks, drug store chains, retailers and quick-service restaurants that are seeking to reduce their grid-tied electricity costs. Current installations include the Arlington National Cemetery Visitors Center, parts of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit System, and the National Institute of Standards & Technology. Sol also boasts a number of military installations.

What makes Sol's 20/20 solar lighting technology compelling? For one thing, it can withstand winds of up to 150 miles per hour. The fixtures can be teamed up with motion sensors, which makes sure the lights aren't illuminated except when necessary. Wickberg said the fixtures can run off solar power for up to five nights without power being applied to solar panels.

Let's be clear, Sol doesn't offer the same cost proposition for companies that already have outdoor lighting technologies in place, but it does offers a non-solar-powered LED fixture to accommodate retrofit scenarios aimed at improving energy efficiency. A non-solar retrofit could pay itself off within two years, through the power consumption reductions achieved, Wickberg said. (A complete solar-enabled retrofit could take up to eight years to pay off, he estimated.)

"You can cut the power to an LED fixture by 50 percent and only lose 20 percent of the light output," Wickberg said. "The technology really offers a fantastic energy use curve."