A collaboration between Philips and the Kenyan Urban Roads Authority will see the streets of capital city Nairobi being lit up with solar-powered LED lighting. The pilot project is the first of its kind in East Africa and and was launched during the 40th anniversary of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which is headquartered in that city.
Philips says its solar powered road lighting solution is the most efficient, reliable and cheap per kilometer of road currently available thanks to a combination of new high-brightness LEDs with patented optics and an intelligent controller, which is at the core of the technology.
In a part of the world where electricity is neither cheap nor plentiful, one of the most attractive features is the efficiency of the system, which increases the amount of power transferred from the solar panels to the batteries. Philips says its are 30 per cent more efficient than traditional charge controllers.
Battery life is also prolonged by smart charging and discharging of the battery. The intelligent system can dim light levels as required thanks to a self learning mechanism and a history log. All this is claimed to bring prices down by as much as 50 percent, both for batteries and solar panels, compared with current market prices.
During trials the lifespan of LED lights ranged between 50,000 and 100,000 hours. Failure rate over 6,000 hours was found to be around one percent, while conventional lighting’s equivalent rate is around 10 percent.
Studies show that more efficient electricity consumption could save the world US$110 billion per year, or the equivalent of phasing out 250 large coal-fired power plants, saving another US$210 billion in investment money. In terms of carbon emissions, more efficiency could prevent 490 megatons of C02 from going into the atmosphere, or roughly the same as 122 million mid-size cars.
Earlier this year the UNEP declared 2012 UN International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. Since solar LED street lights are an ideal low-energy technology for urban and rural areas without access to the grid, the Nairobi project fits right in with this year’s theme.
Philips announced the project during the Kenya leg of the Philips Cairo to Cape Town 2012 road show. The project is also part of the en.lighten initiative, a public-private partnership led by UNEP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in collaboration with Philips Lighting, Osram AG, and the National Lighting Test Centre of China.
Ed's note: This article was edited on August 10, 2012. It previously stated the streetlights would have a lifespan of between 137 and 274 years.