Cost Comparison Between Solar vs. Traditional Lights

As solar lights have increased in popularity over the last 5 years due to emerging green technologies and rising energy costs, an important question is being raised: how much do solar street lights costs compared to traditional street lighting? To solve this mystery, our expert team of engineers gathered the necessary information to provide a cost analysis of each lighting system.

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The Light

Traditional street lighting is defined as any electrical light used for street lighting, which is most commonly metal halide and high pressure sodium lights. The average cost of one light, including the lighting fixture, pole, and base, averages at $1500.

Solar street lights are fixtures that use a solar panel to garner electricity. They are off-grid and can be installed in remote locations. Because of the advanced technology required for solar lights, they are more expensive, averaging about $3000 per light.  

Installation

The biggest difference between the cost of traditional and solar lights lies in the installation.

Traditional lights are connected to a standard electrical grid for their power which requires trenching and underground wiring. When adding in labor fees, this process would cost consumers about $120 per foot. The average cost of installation for traditional lighting would then be around $4500.

Because solar lights are autonomous and off the main grid system, consumers avoid the long and costly process of trenching and wiring. The cost of installation reduces significantly as a result, pricing around $1500.

Maintenance

Solar lights require less maintenance than traditional lighting systems. The typical lifespan for a traditional street light averages around 5,000-8,000 hours, while solar LED lights last 5-7 years.

While solar lights need to be repaired less frequently, the cost of each repair is higher. The battery of a solar light needs to be changed every 5-7 years. The cost of 2 batteries and labor for those changes averages around $1000. This is only slightly higher than the cost of standard lights which is about $800.

Energy Bills

Since solar lights gather their energy from the sun, there are no energy costs! Standard lights, on the other hand, accumulate about $1500 in energy costs over 10 years.

Incentive Programs

Solar lighting systems are also heavily subsidized to encourage the use of green energy. According to the NC Clean Energy Technology Center, there are about 200 financial incentive programs for solar alone. Both the private and public sector offer incentives to use solar, but each entity differs in the amount and type of incentive they provide. For example, North Carolina provides a 35% tax credit against the total cost of the system, while the Federal government offers 30%. For more information on the solar incentives, rebates, tax credits, and grant available, visit http://www.dsireusa.org/.

The Verdict

When comparing the total costs of traditional and solar lighting, there appears to be a clear winner. Overall, solar would cost around $5500 over 10 years, while standard costs a steep $8300. Solar lights save heavily on both upfront installation costs and long term energy costs. 

In the battle of the lighting systems, technology and innovation won. While traditional lighting systems may have won some battles, solar lights won the war.

 

California’s Bright Future: The Solar Mandate

On May 9th, the Sunshine State became the first to require a solar installation on new housing. This historic development is that latest sign that solar energy is gaining traction around the U.S., hopefully setting precedent for many states to come.

The California Energy Commission unanimously passed the 2019 Energy Efficiency Standards, mandating all new housing developments up to 3 stories to include some solar energy installation in the home. This is apart of California’s goal to have 50% of their electricity to come from non carbon sources by 2030 and cutting down greenhouse emissions by 40%. Under this mandate, builders must either include individual solar panels on homes or attach groups of home to a shared power system. Homeowners will either pay for this new power source inclusively in the initial housing price or in a monthly fee.

According the the Commission, this plan is estimated to use 53% less energy than under the 2016 standards, majorly progressing towards their 2030 goal. In addition, greenhouse gases are expected to decrease by 700,000 metric tons due to this mandate.

Solar panels are roughly suppose to provide about 60-70% of quality energy for the average home. In the winter, solar panels will still produce energy on cloud-filled days and actually increase output in colder temperatures. To provide even more insurance, the mandate dictates that houses would still be attached to a power grid to ensure a constant supply of energy among all weather conditions.

For those concerned about the the price of this mandate, the costs associated with this plan are negligible as the savings outweighs the costs overtime. While the initial cost of construction is estimated to increase about $10,000, environmental economists predict solar efficiency will save homeowners around $19,000 on electric bills over 30 years, averaging at $80 per month.

The California mandate made a giant step towards sustainable consumption and paves the future for solar energy. From solar houses to solar street lights to even solar powered cars, the market for solar is growing and demands attention. California and its’ energy-friendly policies are raising the bar to encourage other states to take the steps towards sustainable living and prove that investing in solar is worth it.