Introduction of solar panels as the power source and batteries for storage about 10 years ago removed the single largest operating cost and manpower needs associated with using mobile light towers. Over the last decade, the technology has matured and experience on how to use it has grown. There were first-of-a-kind issues, some under-spec versions of these products, and a few people had some bad experiences. Just like a first-generation iPhone, the technology has greatly improved, as well as industry experience in manufacturing.
You may have skeptical thoughts when seeing solar power being incorporated into use of everyday products. Thoughts of it being a feel-good product for the environment and not what you want to rely on for your company’s operations are not uncommon. If you buy them now, you’re no early adopter, that is for sure. They are simpler to maintain, operate and support than a typical diesel light tower. With minimal training of your team, you will be ready to benefit from this next generation product and realize some major cost savings. This doesn’t mean you don’t get what you pay for. There are low-cost providers that cut corners on their specs and more premium brands just like any other product out there, but this is not a new, environmental feel-good product any longer.
Major technology improvements over the first 10 years:
- Solar panel efficiency of around 7% with our first generation and over 20% now.
- LED efficiency of 80 lumens/watt with our first generation and 180 lumens/watt now.
- Tools to calculate power balance of solar, batteries, and light power consumption by zip code are mature and able to prevent under spec purchases.
- Autonomous year-round operation as far north as Canada on only solar is viable with proper specs.
- "Set it and forget it" light sensors coupled with adequate specifications to allow nearly zero logistics support after setup for year-round operation.
- Improved controls, user interfaces, and manufacturing lessons learned.
Whether you are an outright owner or renter, mobile solar light towers have large cost savings in fuel and logistics when compared to using diesel light towers. The maturity of the technology also has provided a much better user experience, much like the evolution of most new inventions in the industry.
The front-end equipment capital cost or rental rate is more than a diesel light tower for sure, but not so much more that it does not produce significant and immediate savings and a much lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). TCO over five years is around $20,000 for a standard solar light tower and over $100,000 for a diesel light tower. That’s well over $1,000 per month per unit savings when running each night. With regular use, return on investment is less than one year. We used $5 per gallon for diesel in this version.
Rental rate savings is about half of the total cost of a diesel light tower when fuel is considered into the equation and also just under $1,000 per month in savings per unit when run every night.
We can run a custom savings scenario for many different use cases and adjust for the cost of diesel and runtime, but even with more conservative numbers the cost savings is large.
Other benefits include:
1. Set it and forget it controls. Since it doesn’t need fuel, you can use a light sensor or timer to have the unit turn on and off automatically. Rarely does a person need to touch it if set up correctly.
2. Silent operation, great for placing in and amongst an event or work place without adding un-necessary noise.
3. Equipment lasts longer. Few moving parts, maintenance schedules, etc. Well-maintained batteries should last five years.
4. In most cases, the cost savings of running AC power to a more permanent light pole. No electricians, permits, etc. Roll it in and set it and forget it.
5. Environmental benefits per light tower shown in table
The cost savings can be staggering when multiplied out over a fleet. Ten units x $1000 in savings each per month is $10,000 per month or $120,000 per year. That is a lot of money no matter who you are. Is it time time to give a few of these a try in your fleet as a late adopter and start saving your company some money? You can always take some credit for being environmentally friendly, too.