Does Solar Power work in the UK?
With our rainy and cloudy weather throughout the year, it is hard to believe that in the UK we can use solar power. Renewable sources of energy are becoming popular throughout the country with their many benefits, both environmental and financial. Before we dive in, I am going to give you my standard speech that I use when ever I am questioned on Solar lighting, it goes something like this...
“Solar power is a wonderful thing, as we are harvesting free, clean energy from the Nuclear Fusion power station in the sky: the Sun. But there are limitations on using solar power for lighting, especially if you are based in Northern Europe, as the UK is. These limitations include the amount of time the that Sun is actually in the sky, which is a lot less in the winter than the summer months, which also effects the quality of sun light that you can harvest. This quality can be reduced more by weather factors, such as overcast or cloudy skies or stormy weather, rain, fog and snow.”
The sun is a continuous source of energy throughout the day, and a very powerful source too. In the UK, we are the 6th biggest user of solar power worldwide (2018)* and the government are expecting around 4 million homes to be solar-powered by 2020. This shows the increase in people wanting to use solar power, but it isn’t just domestically. In the construction industry the need to reduce emissions is in high priority and the demand for equipment which is sustainable and eco-friendly, and it seems solar power could be a route forward. At the moment, battery power is the most common alternative with equipment: including diggers.
Surprisingly, solar energy is a lot more efficient the closer you go to the Equator. This may be due to the even day/night balance, and the likelihood that you will have a better quality of sun light as the weather conditions are likely to be better (which is why we tend to go on holidays there). However, when using solar energy in Northern Europe, a manufacturer will normally have to compromise. Either by reducing the lighting output available from the LED lamps, normally by using smaller wattage lamps, or using a PIR or a dimming system to reduce the power consumption from the available power in the battery storage system. This means that you may not always have the LED lamps operating at full power. The second option is to increase the surface area of the Solar Panels to try to increase the amount of energy harvested and stored in the batteries, but this can become expensive and make the Solar Lighting unit large, unwieldy and prone to accidental damage.
By using a Solar Hybrid lighting unit you have the best of both worlds, you will harvest the free, clean energy from the Sun, and you will also have assurance that your batteries will not be fully drained, meaning that if your LED lamps go out, you don’t have to recharge the batteries manually from a generator or mains power source, as it will happen automatically.
Solar hybrid units are a possible alternative to diesel-powered lighting towers. They use less fuel, produce less emissions, saving on fuel and maintenance costs. Due to the constant power generated from the sun, especially during the summer months, the lighting tower’s engine doesn’t have to be maintained and this saves even more time and money. These small savings make a big difference, the environment will benefit hugely from equipment which is powered with renewable sources and your pocket will too! But the mast, light heads and solar panels will need to be cleaned and checked! Ideally, face the solar panels Southwards with an unobstructed view of the sky. This gives them the best opportunity to harvest the most energy. Any dust, dirt or snow will reduce the efficiency of the Solar Panel, so they work best when cleaned regularly.
As the manufacturers of our lighting towers, we at Trime we know that heading into a new product line like solar power, can be daunting. We are here to answer any questions, whilst also providing training on the lights to help you get as much out of your purchase as possible. Please give us a call on 01480 220500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.