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 cost 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.

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 to garner 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 get 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 street lights cost around $5500 over 10 years, while standard costs a steep $8300. 

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.

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