Solar lighting systems vary widely in their attributes and advantages. Recognizing these distinctions and aligning them with your specific needs allows you to come up with an ideal solar lighting system solution in collaboration with your designer. 

In this article, we’ll talk about the three key strategies for designing the optimal solar lighting system:

Think About the Limitations of the System

The feasibility of various projects depends on factors like the installation location and system specifications. 

For instance, a 70 Watt LED fixture operating throughout the night will necessitate a larger solar power setup in Maine compared to Arizona, mainly due to the available solar irradiance at each location. 

Off-grid systems should base their sizing on worst-case scenarios, utilizing specific location data rather than overall averages to ensure an appropriate fit.

Rather than focusing solely on arbitrary wattages, prioritizing light-level requirements is the initial step in determining project needs. In many cases, reducing wattage while adding extra poles can lead to more uniform illumination and a more practical project outcome, all while maintaining the desired light levels.

Storage needs also vary by location. As you move northward, colder climates demand greater storage due to battery discharge changes. Notably, Lithium batteries are ill-suited for extreme hot or cold conditions and should be avoided.

Taking local weather patterns into account is essential. The frequency of cloudy or overcast days, coupled with temperature extremes, helps gauge the appropriate backup storage for reliable system operation and longevity.

Determine Your Lighting Requirements

Determining the lighting requirements for your project often involves considering IES Standard light levels and local lighting regulations. 

Engaging with local code enforcement can help clarify whether specific guidelines must be followed or if there are no fixed standards in place for lighting. While IES Standards serve as a reliable benchmark for many projects, it’s essential to note that different municipalities might have variations of these standards that they enforce.

In areas where IES Standards align with your project needs, sharing this information with your lighting designer is beneficial. This enables them to determine the appropriate light type, distribution, and brightness required. 

Providing additional project details like road length, parking lot size, and area dimensions helps the designer create a comprehensive light layout that ensures uniformity and proper light levels throughout the project.

Another equally important thing is to provide an AutoCAD file or the location on Google Earth. These details allow the lighting designer to consider obstacles and project-specific elements during the layout. 

Visualizing elements like medians, entrances, exits, trees, obstructions, and buildings aids in ensuring sufficient lighting coverage. This data is especially crucial for specialized areas like ADA parking spaces, where compliance demands higher light levels.

Know When to Start Operation

Designing solar lighting systems involves considering various operation schedules to match project needs. Defining the operation schedule during the initial design phase is crucial to ensure proper system functioning and sizing. 

This requires analyzing traffic and space usage before requesting solar solutions. 

For instance, if activity diminishes during certain hours, programming lights to turn off then can optimize system efficiency. Conversely, areas with sporadic nighttime activity may benefit from motion sensors for full brightness when needed.

Some companies use control electronics that override initial design requirements, providing adaptive lighting controls. 

To avoid confusion, make sure to collaborate closely with the design team to understand the intended controls for the specific installation. Clearly specify options like dimming, split time, or motion sensing during the initial stages. 


Familiarizing yourself with these three key design considerations before finalizing the system design ensures that your lighting setup meets the necessary requirements in terms of lighting levels, uniformity, operation, and sizing.

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