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Off the grid street lighting: coming soon to a street near you


July 21, 2009

A rendering showing what the street lights might look like in a typical urban street. With orders already being processed, Urban Green Energy will be releasing images of its solution in action before long

A rendering showing what the street lights might look like in a typical urban street. With orders already being processed, Urban Green Energy will be releasing images of its solution in action before long

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It provides light where there is darkness, it gives a sense of safety and security, but it's also a power leech. The humble street light. Thankfully, the move away from the grid is already well underway with companies like Urban Green Energy busy transforming these familiar towers of light into self sufficient beacons that harness the power of the elements - in this case, both the wind and the sun.

Using energy from the sun to power low energy lighting is nothing new of course. There are numerous solar-powered street lighting solutions available, such as offerings from Sharp, Solar Lighting, Solar Street Lights and Bright Light Solar.

Urban Green Energy is hoping its solution will stand out from the competition by providing a solar/wind turbine hybrid system that is not just off-grid but looks good too.

The company's Nick Blitterswyk explains the reason for producing a solar/wind hybrid model: "Most of the power will come from the wind turbine as it has a higher energy density than solar. You wouldn't be able to have an industrial strength light with solar alone unless the solar was massive or installed elsewhere beside the road."

Component approach

Urban Green Energy's solution also differs in that project designs can be customized to fit client requirements. The base design features are:

  • a UGE 300W 2nd Generation Vertical Axis Wind Turbine
  • 80W solar panels
  • a steel tower with a height of 8 to 12 meters
  • LED street lights based on requirements
  • enough batteries to provide for at least 5-days storage
  • Blitterswyk confirmed that the company has opted for lead-acid batteries which would seem a sound choice according to the Battery Council: "More than 98 percent of all battery lead and plastic is recycled, making the lead-acid battery the recycled leader of all consumer products."

    In response to concerns about the use of fiberglass for this eco-friendly solution, Blitterswyk told Gizmag: "Fiberglass is still very common in a lot of products, including wind turbines (in particular their blades). Both smaller and larger wind turbines primarily use fiberglass blades. Compared to the alternative - aluminum, say - it actually uses very little energy to make. I agree 100% that we should consider the environment in the materials choose and we do. I know we have spent a lot of time considering various materials for all our products."

    Rather than having just one design on offer, the company is taking a component approach to its product where, according to Blitterswyk , "we can change any of the LED light, solar panel, wind turbine, tower height, and battery storage to best fit a particular project."

    These component parts are ordered from established manufacturers each time a new project starts. Anything that can't be sourced will be made by the company, if possible, or alternatives sought. This component approach gives the company the ability to always be able to look out for better tech and greener options. Time and money is also saved by using this approach.

    "When installing typical streetlights a lot of cost goes into the wiring - between the lamps and to the power source," says Blitterswyk. "With this wind/solar streetlight it is completely plug and play. A small concrete foundation is poured, the light is erected, the switch is turned on, and you are good to go."

    Getting some attention

    The hybrid lighting solution is already attracting attention and the company is currently busy assembling all the parts into whole units to fill its first large order for a Chinese municipality. Talks are underway with potential clients in the US and elsewhere. If you would like to know more, visit the company's website.

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag. All articles by Paul Ridden
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