As Europe plunges deeper into an energy crisis induced by the overdependence of fossil fuels, leapfrogging to solar lighting can lessen the burden.
In fact, moving towards a more sustainable way to illuminate our lives may prove beneficial in our fight against the triple crisis of climate, energy and finance, and should be included among post-Covid recovery plans across the region.
REPowerEU, which forms part of the European Commission’s larger Recovery and Resilience Facility, aims to liberate the Union from Russian fossil fuel imports following the invasion of Ukraine, and the roll out of solar energy is at the heart of the framework.
Signify argues that solar lighting is an important component in the path to REPowerEU.
“These crises offer us an opportunity to leapfrog into solar, when considering how we light our lives,” says Harry Verhaar, the company’s Head of Global Public & Government Affairs.
“We’re already seeing the electrification of vital sectors to reduce our energy demands and light should not be an exception. Using solar can relieve the grid, improve resilience, develop safer communities, and allow more remote places to benefit from light,” Verhaar adds.
Vitally, solar lighting for streetlights can help take pressure off of the grid, either in their entirety or with the use of hybrid solutions and peak-shaving where built-in batteries are charged throughout the day and then used during peak hours.
If European member states replaced 56 million streetlights (the entire stock within the EU27) with hybrid-solar lamps, carbon emissions would be reduced by 12 Mt per year, an amount equivalent to the absorption capacity of a forest half the size of Belgium. It would also free up the grid to enable the recharging of 7.3 million electric vehicles for a whole year.
This transition has been seen in parts of the City of Seville, Spain.
“We will use extremely efficient and effective solar street lights to decrease energy consumption and reduce our overall greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mayor Juan Espadas, after the Council worked with Signify to install 20 SunStay luminaries in Infanta Elena Park.
As an all-in-one integrated solution, the lights work without the need for cables or any type of electrical connection and, while maintaining an output of 3,000 lumens of warm light, enjoys both zero energy consumption and zero emissions.
The Greek Island of Leipsoi is seeing similar benefits after installing 28 SunStay luminaires, which has helped the municipality overcome issues relating to the misalignment between the grid system and the road layout.
As a fully autonomous and external solution, with poles not connected to the mains power cables, makes the island resilient to weather anomalies and the inhabitants not subject to power cuts.
Leipsoi is not the only remote place that has taken advantage of solar light.
In the suburbs of Metropolitan Venice, the SunStay luminaries are being used to improve the lighting around a lagoon which would have proven difficult using traditional electrical networking due to the bay’s geography and remoteness.
“Thanks to our solar technology, Cavallino Treporti is now guaranteed efficient street lighting,” says Andrea Bernardini, Signify’s Commercial Lead in Systems and Public Services.
“Despite multiple technical difficulties, they are now able to benefit from high light quality and improved sustainability,” he adds.
Ultimately, the benefits of moving towards solar light are multifold, the technology is ready, and the costs are low.
“But what’s important is speed,” says Verhaar. “To free ourselves of the climate, energy, and financial crises, leapfrogging to solar must be a small part of our actions ahead, but we must accelerate the jump.”