15th May 2018: Prolectric Solar Lighting at the A14 construction site.

Rachel Preen, Managing Director, Prolectric talks about making the switch from mains power and diesel to solar – and the dual benefits that make both environmental and commercial sense.

The road to decarbonisation is long and winding – and not without its challenges. Whilst more and more sustainable energy solutions are being adopted at pace across the UK, some work remains to be done to clearly convey the value proposition that renewable power solutions offer.

As the leading off-grid, renewable lighting and power specialists, Prolectric were the first to introduce all-in-one solar street lighting to the UK in 2011, with technology specifically designed and developed for UK weather conditions. The company has installed over 8,000 units across the UK, providing high-quality, reliable, low-voltage LED lighting to customers across Local Authorities, MoD, Commercial and Industrial sectors.

As a market leader, we have an ongoing responsibility to educate the industry and to communicate the dual benefits of switching from fossil fuels to solar. In short, we need to make it easier for decision-makers to understand that solar is not just the best outcome for the environment, but it’s a good commercial proposition too.

Whilst the initial upfront investment in solar technology is more, there are immediate fuel and labour cost savings.  When these savings are considered as part of the wider purchasing decision, over the lifetime of the product, using solar technology substantially reduces operating costs.

Another myth to dispel is the belief that solar technology doesn’t work during the winter months.  We’ve proven that solar technology is far more advanced and resilient, works all-year round, and has a long lifespan. With over 10 years of solar technology experience, our historical data provides us with real-world insights to substantiate and back up our claims.

Solar Switch on A14 Improvement Scheme

In 2020, the National Highways A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme became the first UK project to switch to solar temporary lighting in preference to diesel.  With a 2,000-strong construction workforce, the A14 was dubbed the UK’s biggest road construction project with a £1.5bn budget to upgrade 21 miles of trunk road between Cambridge and Huntingdon.

The A14 Integrated Delivery Team (IDT), working on behalf of National Highways, was the largest user in the country of year-round mobile solar tower lights. The team understood that using temporary solar lighting wherever possible would save the A14 project more than 1,000 tonnes of CO2 over the course of construction, contributing significantly to National Highways’ environmental impact goals and supporting its commitment to source all project electricity from 100% renewable sources.

Carbon Savings

A total of 24 Prolectric ProLight solar lighting towers were deployed at the three compounds along the construction route between Cambridge and Huntingdon, illuminating site operations and helping to protect worker safety. As a result, 264,000 kgs of CO2, 98,800 litres of diesel, and £80,454 of manpower costs were saved over 12 months.

Environmental Harmony

The ‘National Highways’ environmental strategy seeks to help protect, manage and enhance the quality of the surrounding environment. The use of renewable power sources and Prolectric’s solar powered lights enabled the team, working on the A14, to work in greater harmony with the environment.

Like-for-Like Performance

The Prolectric ProLight provides reliable, year-round, solar-powered temporary lighting, offering ‘like-for-like’ performance to diesel alternatives, with powerful LED illumination. The trailer-mounted battery storage has been developed to be three times that of any other temporary trailer light so that even on winter days with 16 hours of darkness, the unit operates consistently and reliably.

Diesel and Manpower Savings

Following initial successful trials, the use of ProLights on-site across the A14 steadily increased and the team was able to remove further diesel lights as the project rolled out.  ProLights were used to illuminate two newly-constructed permanent roundabouts, enabling works traffic movements and site safety until permanent street lighting was introduced.   Further lights were used to illuminate temporary bridges and laydown areas to enable safe loading and offloading of construction materials. The lights saved hugely on diesel costs and manpower too. The ProLight operates autonomously, so helped to save on the cost of employing workers to turn on diesel lights each night and return to switch them off the following morning.

All ProLight solar lighting towers used on the A14 were fitted with an upgrade that enabled the works team to power 1800W hand tools with the solar energy generated and stored in the light’s battery system.  The enhancement increased the team’s ability to reduce the carbon impact, as well as eliminate the noise and fumes of diesel generators.

Prolectric provided daily monitoring and control to optimise the performance of each unit, as well as regular reports on a range of performance data including carbon savings.

Next Generation Sustainable Lighting Solutions

In response to market demand and in the pursuit of achieving new engineering standards to improve lighting efficiency, Prolectric has launched the ProRXM Hybrid. The new lighting tower offers 800W of bright LED light making it the perfect task light for worker safety and site security. A solar solution with traditional generator back-up it continues our commitment to the industry to provide more sustainable solutions that help to reduce carbon emissions. Our new tower light sits alongside our innovative range of solar lighting towers, the ProTemp, ProRXM, and ProLight.

Lighting Towers are an integral piece of equipment for construction, highways and utilities work sites, in addition to outdoor public events and festivals, amongst others.

Whether it’s the ProTemp’s easy installation, the ProRXM’s compact versatility, or the ProLight’s award-winning performance, each product offers a unique set of features that cater to specific on-site needs. By embracing these innovative solar lighting towers, we’re moving closer to a future with cleaner, greener, and more reliable solar lighting solutions.

Our complete range of sustainable, advanced performance products have been designed as direct like-for-like diesel replacements, making them a simple switch. The environmental case is clear, and the commercial benefits are equally robust. Since we launched our first award-winning solar lighting tower in 2016, we estimate to have already saved 34,331 tonnes of CO2 and reduced diesel usage by more than 10 million litres – saving our customers around £9 million pounds of cost.

Our new carbon calculator tool offers another level of granularity for customers during the critical specification and procurement stages, with quick access to understandable data, so they can make informed decisions which in turn will help them achieve their net zero goals and save money.

Prolectric lead the way in this sector – not least because we pioneered it – but because we’re the only ones to have mastered the art of engineering the only solar, battery and hybrid systems in the UK to truly work autonomously, all-year round (as tested in Scotland!).

 For further information visit: www.prolectric.co.uk