Solar Lights and Climate Change: Switching from CFLs to Solar Lighting Creates Substantial Measurable Impact on CO2 Emissions

By Brian Lee

Human-induced climate change has far-reaching impacts across the globe. From acidification of the Ocean resulting in decreased organic viability to melting ice-caps producing rising sea levels, anthropogenic climate change has the capacity to alter the global landscape and affect billions of lives in the next century.   

Fossil fuel consumption is one of the leading producers of CO2 emissions, however communities have many options to reduce their use of unsustainable energy sources. Some examples include photovoltaic, geothermal, and hydroelectric energy production. Advances in technology have allowed individuals to capitalize on these systems which offer multiple benefits including reduced emissions and energy bills.

From June 2016-September 2016, I conducted a local study in Southern California to determine the impact of household solar lighting.  The survey takes into account: the amount of electricity used, number of lights, average usage durations. These factors were used  to determine if switching conventional outdoor lights with readily available solar lighting was a potential method of significantly reducing electricity usage.

Based on the survey, the average American household uses between 800 and 900 kilowatt hours each month. With Southern California Edison there are three tiers for energy cost, Tier 1 14.9 cents/kwh, Tier 2 19.3 cents/kwh, Tier 3 27.9 cents/kwh, and Tier 4 31.9 cents/kwh.

On average households have 8 outdoor lights which stay for an average of 5 hours each night. A 21.5  watt, average wattage of 1100 lumen CFL. (1kw hour = 46.5 hours of 21.5 watt light, 1100 lumens) This totals to 0.86 kwh hour per household per night, 25.8 kwh for a whole month, and 309.6 kwh for the whole year.

If residents were to change 8 of their lights to solar they would be saving $8.23 per month (prices taken from tier 4). For a whole year households would be saving $98.79.

Switching to a solar light that is 1100 lumens, the equivalent of the average brightness of a CFL, which is about $60, for eight lights this would cost $480. This would take households 4.86 years to pay off the solar lighting.

If 48 houses per neighborhood switched to solar lighting, the total energy saving would be approximately 14860.8 kwh each year, which is equivalent to $4740.60.

If all 21,576 households, in Brea, California switched to solar lighting, this would be equivalent to 6,679,929.6 kwh and $2,130,897.54 of savings per year.

Based on Carbonify statistics, the energy savings of 6,679,929.6 kwh per year would be equivalent to 5,009.95 metric tons of CO2 per year. This would equal 2,087.48 trees being saved each month and 25,049.74 per year.

Based on my research, I conclude that there is a significant measurable impact on an individual, community, and global level by simply replacing CFL lights with solar lights of the same intensity.  This will have a measurable impact in C02 emissions on a global scale. My goal is to convince 15% of households in my neighborhood to replace their outdoor lights with solar lights, which will save an estimated 1,001,989.44 kwh, equivalent to 3,757.46 trees per year.

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