You’re probably familiar with solar-powered LED outdoor lamps. But the output from the lamps is too modest for them to be anything other than attractive, low-cost garden lights. Until now, that is. Solar-powered LEDs have come of age.

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Philips and NXP unveiled their solar-powered LED street lights. The LEDs, known as Solar Gen2, provide strong, effective light without mains connection.

Solar power and LEDs

The new LED lamp looks much the same as a conventional street light. The differences are the LEDs and the solar panel set at an angle on top.

During the day, the panel absorbs sunlight. 98% of this energy transfers from the panel’s photovoltaic cells to a battery. When night falls, the battery provides the power for the LED lamp.

The technology builds on Philip’s existing LED street lamps. These run from electrical grids. What Philips and NXP have done is successfully convert them to solar power.

According to a Philip’s executive, 1.6 billion people can benefit from solar-powered LEDs in their streets. The lamps can stand 50 metres apart and yet give plenty of light for pavements and roads. Long-life LED bulbs and reliability make them affordable for countries where public lighting and electricity are scarce.

Philips also believes solar-powered LED street lights can compete with traditional lighting systems. The ease of installation and low maintenance can help councils cut costs. So in the future, solar-powered lamps may well be coming to a street near you.

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