Published On: Tue, Apr 10th, 2018

How do solar street lamps work?

Have you ever been driving down a busy highway at night, and wondered about that seemingly endless lineup of street lamps lighting your way? You’ve probably thought at least once about how much energy they must consume nightly. You may have even wondered whether there’s a better way to provide safety and illumination on these busy roadways, one that doesn’t require so much electricity. Fortunately, there is. Through the use of solar technology, companies like SOMPOR have developed street lights that are powered not by electricity but through harnessing the power of the sun. But how do they work?

photo/ SOMPOR

Solar street lights utilize photovoltaic panels mounted on the lighting structure. These panels absorb solar energy during daylight hours and use it to charge the system’s battery. When it gets dark, that battery powers the lamps’ lights (which are typically LED but may also be fluorescent). Solar panels “sense” the amount of ambient outdoor light, which triggers them to turn on and off as necessary.

The main components of a solar street light are the solar panel, the light fixture, the pole, and the battery. The solar panel, of course, is instrumental in the operation of the solar light fixture, as it is this component that works to convert solar energy into electricity. There are several different types of solar panels, each with varying rates of how fast and/or effectively they can convert solar energy to electricity. The light fixture in a solar street lamp usually includes an LED bulb, as these are much brighter than other types of bulbs. LED lighting uses less energy and emits more Lumens than other types of street lights. The battery in solar street lights is much the same as it is in all solar lighting sources. The battery takes in the energy gathered by the solar panel, stores it, and uses that energy to power the fixture when the sun goes down. The final component is the pole. In all street lights, the pole needs to be quite strong, but this especially important when it comes to solar street lighting. The pole needs to be able to sustain the weight of the fixture, solar panels, and the battery. In some incarnations, however, the designs have been streamlined to encase the photovoltaic panels into the pole.

There are several advantages of solar street lighting. Among these are:

  • Because solar street lights are not “on the grid,” operating costs are minimal.
  • Solar street lamps do not have complex wiring systems, etc. which means they require very little maintenance when compared to traditional electric lights.
  • Many people believe that solar street lights are safer because, as there are no external wires of which to be cautious, the risk of potentially serious electrical accidents is all but eliminated.
  • There is no light pollution with this type of technology

Also, this is an affordable, convenient technology that can be transported to even quite remote areas of the world, especially those warm climates where the power of solar energy can be harnessed very effectively.


As with anything, there are downsides to solar street lights, too. Although they are less expensive over time, the initial financial outlay can be significantly higher than traditional street lamps. Second, because the system is dependant on the photovoltaic panels remaining clear of debris, weather conditions such as snow and rain can compromise the system and result in the lights not working properly. Finally, the rechargeable batteries will have to be replaced several times during the lifespan of the system, which can be costly.

As you can see, the integration of solar energy technology into street lighting has both its upsides and downsides. However, from an environmental perspective, solar-power streetlights are clearly the better choice. They do not offer any light pollution, and they rely on a renewal energy source.

Author: Sheikh Hazaifa

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