Let The Sun Shine
Towable diesel light plants have historically been considered a must have by many general construction equipment rental companies for their rental fleets. However, like most industries, times change and newer technologies evolve from the industry’s quest for continuous improvement and the need to remain competitive.
For portable lighting, a proven alternative to the diesel light plants are portable solar light towers with LED lights, which were introduced by Progress Solar Solutions in 2010. Since then solar/wind and solar/hybrid light towers with backup generators have been introduced. Over the last few years these light towers have been steadily adopted and expanded by many of the leading national and regional rental equipment chains as well as by a growing number of independent and specialty rental stores.
The use of portable solar and solar/hybrid light towers equipped with high-efficiency LED lights and no-maintenance absorbent glass mat (AGM) batteries is growing quickly. They were initially designed for use for night-time events and have evolved now with technology improvements to the point that they are now used in essentially every type of lighting application in which a diesel light tower was historically used.
The primary benefits of the solar options include running primarily or completely off free renewable energy from the sun. Solar light towers can reduce or eliminate noise, toxic fumes and carbon emissions that negatively impact the environment, and they minimize or eliminate routine fuel runs, diesel engine maintenance and frequent replacement of high-intensity discharge lights. Solar light towers have shown to reduce the historic operating expenses of diesel light towers by 30 percent.
Rental companies also usually can rent solar light towers at higher rates while simultaneously reducing the rental customer’s total operating costs. Both the rental company and the rental customer can essentially split the savings from what was historically spent on diesel fuel, parts, labor and maintenance.
Routine end users who value the benefits of solar or solar/hybrid light towers include night-time outdoor sports and recreational events. Then there are industries with night-time operations like construction; safety, security and rescue applications; federal, state and local governments; universities; utility companies; oil and gas companies; mining; transportation sites such as airports and shipping ports; remote/overflow parking; and disaster recovery. Basically solar light towers or solar/hybrid light towers can be used anywhere there is a temporary outdoor lighting need for operations or events and the desire for a cleaner work environment and the need to reduce operating costs.
There are a variety of solar light tower options available, including:
- Solar light towers. These are powered primarily by solar renewable energy with backup AC chargers.
- Solar/wind light towers. These are powered primarily by solar and wind renewable energy with backup AC chargers.
- Solar/hybrid light towers. These are powered by solar renewable energy combined with an onboard backup generator to supplement power as needed. These solar/hybrid light towers now offer models that can perform year-round, in the toughest applications and environments.
When you make a decision to add solar light towers to your rental fleet, you should consider and look for the following:
- The most energy efficient, brightest LED lights available. Variable intensity lighting with automated light timers (on/off) offers the greatest flexibility for different lighting applications. LEDs are extremely durable and vibration resistant and can offer five to 10 times longer life
than traditional lighting.
- Adequate solar generating power for the geographic area, lighting output needed and application hours of operation needed. The best choice combines use of the most energy efficient monoclonal solar panels available with maximum power point tracking (MPPT) controllers to get the most solar gain possible in all weather conditions. The higher the wattage of the solar arrays the more free renewable energy you get. The most commonly used are 800W, 1,000W and 1,200W. For general rentals, the 1,000W is the most frequently purchased.
- Adequate battery capacity to store power needed for typical run times and to run several nights during bad weather. AGM, no-maintenance, deep-cycle batteries are typically the best option currently available. For general rentals, ~672 to 830aH are recommended for solar/hybrid light towers and ~830 to 896aH are recommended for solar and solar/wind options. To protect the life of the batteries, look for built in low-voltage-disconnects and MPPT controllers to prevent over/under charging.
- Built-in redundancy or backups. For long periods of inclement weather, either a built-in AC charger or an onboard backup generator is needed to ensure you have power for as long as needed. The objective is to maximize use of renewable energy, but also be able to handle whatever Mother Nature throws your way.
- A durable, functional trailer system housed in as small a footprint as possible both for transportation and when deployed for routine operation. For operation, easily deployable automated solar wings can allow orientation for maximum solar gain from multiple sides of a unit regardless of orientation. Preferably solar panels are mounted high on the unit to raise the solar panels above other nearby vehicles. For transport and storage, a minimal-size footprint can allow more units to be placed on a truck on in a rental yard. Most solar light towers can be setup or taken down in lessthan five minutes by one person. Solar light towers are available with either a vertical-only mast or a standard mast that is horizontal in the travel position with either a manual or automated winch for improved safety and ease of use.
Dan Robertson is co-founder and managing partner, Progress Solar Solutions, manufacturers of Progress Solar™, Progress Solar/Wind™
and Progress Solar/Hybrid™ Light Towers. He can be reached at 919-363-3738 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit progresssolar.com.