Billboard Insider By Dave Westburg January 17, 2017
At last year’s Geopath/OAAA convention, Lamar’s CEO Sean Reilly predicted that within 10 years most of Lamar’s billboards would be off the power grid or feeding the power grid due the use of solar power.
Autonomous Power Solutions wants to make this happen. The company has installed solar powered billboards for Lamar, Clear Channel Outdoor, Ralston Outdoor and Sign-Ads. Insider talked with the CEO Kevin Conlin about solar and billboards.
Kevin tell us about Autonomous Power Solutions.
Since we’re based in the Houston, TX, area, our core business is oil and gas. We build high reliability power systems for remote locations without power; such as offshore platforms, mountain top repeaters, and pipeline measurement stations. Our systems are expected to last 30 years, with 99.99% reliability, and this is the mindset we bring to the solar lighting business.
How did you get involved with the outdoor advertising industry?
We specialize in packaged systems, and in 2013 we were asked to package the batteries and controls for a national solar distributor that was building some standalone systems for Lamar. The systems were subject to weather extremes, and sometimes placed in high crime areas, so we developed a package that completely protects the batteries from the elements – both natural and human.
The concept has worked well around the country, and provides a convenient platform for those customers who locate the solar array on the ground. This is just one aspect of how our approach to reliable power differs from our competition.
What mistakes do people make when buying solar power?
People naturally shop for the best price, because in the case of solar, the lowest cost system has the quickest payback. What they don’t realize is most solar billboard lighting systems are priced to sell, not operate. The three problems I see most frequently are:
- To keep costs down, they tend to be under-lit, with uneven illumination and dark spots, which results in an unhappy customer.
- The solar array tends to be sized for average weather conditions, rather than worst weather conditions, so the system fails frequently in winter.
- They never have enough battery reserve to handle cloudy periods, so again, they fail frequently, especially in winter.
This combination of poor performance leads people to conclude that solar just doesn’t work; they don’t realize that bad decision making was the real problem. A low cost solar system that doesn’t do the job is worthless. It will cost you time, money, customer satisfaction, and maybe even a little bit of your reputation.
Available in 24V DC, the Holophane Sign Vue II fixture is good for solar billboards.
What lights work best with solar?
I recommend selecting a light from a major manufacturer familiar with the needs of the Outdoor Advertising industry, such as Holophane. The best lights are sealed against the elements, and should be constructed entirely of durable materials such as metal and glass for long life and maximum reliability.The Holophane lamps are offered in 24VDC, and provide the highest efficiency, over 100 lumens per watt. This translates into the most efficient, and reliable, solar system. By following the manufacturers recommendations on proper light spacing, you can now offer your customers a solar lit board that is just as bright as your line powered boards.